A brutal tooth fairy

With Teeth (4 out of 6)

By Mode Steinkjer for Dagsavisen on May 3, 2005

Trent Reznor has become older and more nuanced than since his debut “Pretty Hate Machine” (1989) and became one of the top artists with “Downward Spiral”. But he’s still the world’s most expressive industrial rocker, within the confines of what one may call accessible music – meaning those within the scene that’s had a chance to enter the charts. As Nine Inch Nails, Reznor hasn’t been heard from since 1999, except from live and remix albums.

His new album, “With Teeth”, bears the mark of many years of searching for a sound, and you feel it in mood and interest. Rick Rubin has produced, but unlike other artists Rubin has put his hand on (especially Johnny Cash), Reznor hasn’t let himself be shaped too much. He paints pain-driven noise as catchy and drilling as only he can, like he was a tooth fairy in reverse, yanking out teeth and charging people for it. But at the same time he builds “With Teeth”, to a larger extent, around the big, pure rock riffs and vocal progress. Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) contributes drums, but regardless of who’s guest appearing, Reznors own aggressive expression remains the prime driving force.

Several songs are almost ordinary in form, but what makes “With Teeth” to such a biting record is that his approach to the noise-rock-combo that is closer to improvisation than composition. Not much studio time for each song might be the reason; at the same time, the lyrics are so full of ill-tempered anger that the practically explode in the listener’s ear, often after lying around, tickling you ominously for a while, through build-ups full of reserved force and bile. Nevertheless, the overall impression is somewhat lacking, and even if we wouldn’t dream of missing the forced “conceptual” expression from the last album, “Fragile”, we still miss a musical through-line. Reznor’s musical indecisiveness, indicated by the mix of songs on this album, doesn’t become him, and even if several of the songs here will be regarded as being among his best achievements (“You Know What You Are”, “The Collector”, “Love is not Enough”), “With Teeth” is just too dull around the edges to fully impress.

Translated by Sveinung Mikkelsen

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