Nine Inch Nails - With Teeth
By Kevin Forest Moreau for Shakethrough on May 11, 2005
It's been five years since The Fragile, Nine Inch Nails' last proper studio effort. That engaging album revealed NIN maestro Trent Reznor to be more concerned with expanding the sonic experimentation heard on 1994's landmark The Downward Spiral than with solidifying his status as a generation's icon of fetishistic misery -- a Morrissey for the Ministry set, if you will. With Teeth is a half-step backward, largely streamlining his electro-metallic compositions and, in the process, giving more prominence to lyrics designed to resonate with isolated types who derive some measure of identity from the psychic toll of strained relationships (whether they're romantic, familial or just plain fucked-up in nature). Tight, thudding drums (courtesy of Dave Grohl) and crisp arrangements occasionally give way to abrupt swells and semi-jarring turns, but the effect is understated, not calling attention to itself the way grandiose songs on Spiral and The Fragile often did. While that makes the songs less immediately memorable -- there's no "Closer" or "Head Like a Hole" here -- they're nonetheless ingratiating, and the album as a whole takes less time to digest than those earlier, more ambitious efforts. Reznor can still rage with textbook efficiency, as on "You Know What You Are?," but With Teeth's most affecting moments are those where he pulls back a little, as exemplified by the talk-singing cadence and almost funky rhythm of "Only." Reznor doesn't attempt to bludgeon the listener with either overreaching musical ambition or awkward lyrical poignancy, making With Teeth that rare animal: a Nine Inch Nails record that doesn't force a false sense of visceral urgency.