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Nine Inch Nails - With Teeth

By Marcus for RockReview on April 29, 2005

his is one of the most eagerly anticipated albums of the year, without a doubt. With a release date spontaneously shifting over the course of years, Nine Inch Nails, and Trent Reznor in particular, has acquired the ‘cult band status’ similar to that of their friend Maynard James Keenan in the band Tool. ‘The Downward Spiral’ is very much seen as Reznor’s song writing highpoint and the release date recently passed ten years old. So, in the year 2005, with bands dominating the charts who were presumably bred in germ-free laboratories under the close eye of suited men donning sales figures, just how relevant are Nine Inch Nails? The follow-up to 1999’s ‘The Fragile’ sees Trent Reznor (very publicly) ditch his intoxicated look on the world which gave the last album such an epic, mammoth feel. As a result we get thirteen polished, sheen songs, all under five minutes or there about. This in itself is a revelation of the largest magnitude, which should not be overlooked.

So let’s get this straight. Nine Inch Nails is Trent Reznor. He may have a kick-ass band to tour with, but when it comes to the studio, it’s all very much centred around Reznor, and his sentimental touch on both the lyrical and production side of things definitely aren’t lost on this record. Starting off with the quiet electro-fuelled ‘All The Love In The World’, this is a flashback to ‘Still’, with the song completely based around the vocal sampling similar to that of the title. ‘You Know What You Are’ was one of the songs premiered live last month and listening to its manic drum machine beat you can’t help but be reminded of ‘March Of The Pigs’. ‘The Collector’ backs up the point that Reznor is now very much writing songs as individual pieces, unlike his past projects which have seen a whole album take a familiar, epic feel. ‘The Hand That Feeds’ is the ultimate example of this and I think is worth a review on its own. Yes, it’s a poppy, catchy song, which could easily be played on Top Of The Pops, and the video looks great on MTV. It’s exactly 30 seconds in when that damn catchy chorus hits. But what is most important about this song is how Reznor can still replicate his Industrial-electro feel, synth and all, and still make a song which can be played on the radio, day or night. ‘Love Is Not Enough’ is a personal highlight, and somehow comes across as less heavy and frantic when not played live, but the slurring, fantastically-produced song remains. The drums again retain the NIN signature shifty, disjointed feel, and this dominates the title track ‘With Teeth’. It’s with these two songs you can fully see the artistic progression that Trent Reznor has made. Hell, by this point in the album, he hasn’t even treated us to a full-on blast of distorted white noise. What’s that about? He’s not exactly mellowed out, after all, in the past he’s relied heavily on the schizophrenic quiet/loud feel that many of his albums take, ‘The Fragile’ in particular. But it’s a return to the ‘Pretty Hate Machine’ structure of songs which impact this album the most. Ultimately, the most new-sounding song from Nine Inch Nails on this album is ‘Only’ - The next single. With it’s full-on disco beat, and funky piano riff, you could be forgiven for thinking that there’s been a mistake in the manufacturing of the CD first listen round. But then all the parts come together - the synth complementing the bass, Reznor’s frantic, spoken word - like lyrics, very much reminiscent of ‘Pretty Hate’.., and finally, the distorted, quirky piano. And then the chorus hits. “There is no you/there is only me” This song is so damn catchy!!

It’s only on the last few songs that I think we get a true sequel to ‘The Fragile’, the rest feeling un-attached. ‘Sunspots’ is a swirly, bouncy song and the only song on the album in which I truly notice the impact of Dave Grohl’s guest slot as drummer. Although lyrically you can’t really fault Reznor (ever), “Nothing can stop me now!” must be the most over-used lyric in the history of Nine Inch Nails. ‘The Line Begins To Blur’ is another highlight, with the runny lead guitar taking centre stage. This album is definitely in abundance of solo-like guitar leads. It makes for a very surreal song which is finished off by the NIN-like distorted drum backing. The last two songs carry on with the ‘Fragile’ - like feel, “Right Where It Belongs” being the better of the two, with Reznor again taking the ballad-like approach with nothing more than a piano.

The inclusion of the track ‘Home’ on the Vinyl version alone is very much missed on the CD version. Otherwise, the songs makes for a very complete, tight album. Although nowhere as epic or mind-bashing as past efforts, Trent Reznor has again come back to prove he can write amazing songs, with production to match. Just this time around, they all seem as if they want to be played on a radio - be it with the purpose of Reznor’s exceptional sincerity. Just give it another six years after they finish touring, and he might, just might resurface on the face of this earth to write a follow up.

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