CD Review: "With Teeth", Nine Inch Nails
By Mita Tate for The Chronicle on April 28, 2005
After six long years involving drug addiction and a vicious lawsuit involving an ex-manager, Nine Inch Nails is back and ready to destroy you-or so says Trent Reznor, the mastermind behind the popular '90s industrial rock outfit. But does the new album With Teeth really pack such an intense punch in the face, as its creator also lovingly refers to each song?
The album begins with the surprisingly low-key "All The Love In The World." Reznor's vocals sound as sharp as ever and the backing music, while incredible, isn't exactly a brutal punch in the face.
All-around musical renaissance man Dave Grohl lays down drum tracks on several songs. Grohl's trademark style is the centerpiece of The Pixies meets Queens Of The Stone Age-rocker "Getting Smaller." While this song may confuse more traditional Nine Inch Nail fans, it is a nice change of pace for Reznor and the gang.
The title track starts off as one of the more annoying tunes complete with a chorus that features Reznor shouting "With-a Teeth-a" in a Southern drawl or better yet, like a long lost Super Mario brother. However, when least expected, it unexpectedly breaks into a gorgeous piano interlude.
"Only" is probably the strangest track on With Teeth. It's Talking Heads for the industrial rock crowd. Forget The Faint, Nine Inch Nails is apparently where it's at when it comes to electro-danse-punk fun.
The next to final punch, "Beside You In Time" is the closest older fans can get to a traditional NIN instrumental-with very few vocals and angular guitars looped over and over finally bursting into the most vicious yet restrained blow of all.
With Teeth ends with "Right Where It Belongs," a song only rivaled by "And All That Could Have Been" and even "Hurt" in its sheer honesty. Never has Reznor been so candid about his experiences with the downside of fame. It's beauty in its simplest form and words cannot describe how amazing it truly is. While Reznor will never be Keats, he has managed to grow immensely as a lyricist. Existential ponderings and subtle political commentary have replaced the stale, juvenile angst found on previous releases.
While With Teeth doesn't exactly destroy listeners, it proves that Reznor is still quite relevant despite the changing face of music. It may not live up to The Downward Spiral as critics will undoubtedly compare, but honestly, not much can. However, as long as Reznor continues to evolve with each album, he'll be packing a punch (or a bite) for a long time to come.