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With Teeth

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  • Nine Inch Nails are back with their fourth effort “With Teeth,” and once again Trent Reznor has made an outstanding album.

    Although the album has a sense of urgency, “With Teeth” is not as angry or intense as “Pretty Hate Machine,” (1989) or “The Downward Spiral” (1994). Overall, I think the actual songs on “With Teeth” sound most similar to those on “The Fragile” (1999). Unlike “The Fragile,” however, there are not any instrumentals. “With Teeth” gets more to-the-point. Although I personally loved the long instrumentals on “The Fragile,” fans who thought the album was too self-indulgent or long, may be more pleased with the format of “With Teeth.”

    One additional difference between “The Fragile” and “With Teeth” is the welcome addition of drummer Dave Grohl on several of the tracks. His playing gives the album more of a live, organic feel, and gives the sound a shot in the arm. Unfortunately, what tracks he plays on are not listed on the CD case and there is no booklet. However, you’ll know when you hear him.

    I liked “With Teeth” after the first listen. However, much like “The Fragile” this is definitely an album that grows on you with repeated plays. There’s a lot going on in all of the songs-subtle things, solos, guitars and keyboards-things that you might not pick up on the first couple times. It definitely gets better with repeated plays. Like all Nine Inch Nails albums, each song is meticulously and painstakingly crafted, there is no filler.

    The themes of “With Teeth” are similar to those on past NIN albums-loneliness, rage, fear, nihilism-but Reznor sounds less bleak, more confident, if only slightly so.

    The album starts out with the rather sluggish “All the Love in the World,” which has an almost claustrophobic feel. It sort of grinds itself along, and gives way to a satisfying buildup and sublime finale when the piano kicks in towards the end.

    “You Know What You Are?” sounds frantic, and is intensified by the pounding drums.

    “The Collector” has a really cool, almost funky bass line. It has a great groove and the chorus is really melodic. It’s very infectious.

    “The Hand that Feeds” was a good pick as the first single, as it is pretty representative of the album as a whole. This mid-tempo industrial rocker is very catchy.

    The slow-paced “Love is Not Enough” is one of the album’s more rock orientated songs, when the guitars kick in. The verse sort of rolls along, and then explodes into the chorus. The keyboard solo toward the end is a nice touch.

    I think “Everyday is Exactly the Same” would be a good choice for the next single. It has a very cool, low-key industrial background. It reminds me somewhat of “That’s What I Get” from “Pretty Hate Machine.” The song is especially beautiful when the piano kicks in.

    The album’s title track “With Teeth” takes a few listens to get into. It starts out rather sluggish and claustrophobic…and then…you can hardly hear anything, as Trent Reznor whispers the words over a faint piano…it’s very melancholy…and then it gets back to where it started, only now it is more intense.

    “Only” has a bit of retro feel; it sort of sounds like something Gary Numan or Devo might do. It has a lot of synths going on and is very interesting. It’s really catchy and I think a potential single.

    The fast paced “Getting Smaller” is effective and keeps up the momentum.

    The pacing of “Sunspots” is what makes the song really work. It starts out slow, builds up, intensifies, slows down again, builds up, intensifies, it keeps the listener intrigued. The keyboards and guitars are subtly added in and sort of creep up on you-it’s a cool effect.

    The distorted “The Line Begins to Blur” is mid-paced, but intense. It transforms and becomes hauntingly melodic. The guitar solo, while not technically brilliant, is really catchy and part of the song’s highlight.

    “Beside You in Time” keeps going on-and-off, like when you turn a radio off-and-on-this creates a really cool throbbing effect. The song actually sounds like it’s throbbing. The throbbing gets more and more intense as the song rolls along.

    The closing “Right Where it Belongs” is beautifully eerie. The piano and the underwhelming vocals really give the song a nice effect. The song builds up and gets more intense; but the song, and the album, go out with a whimper rather than a bang (not that that’s a bad thing).

    Again, this album takes a few listens to really appreciate. It gets better and better with successive plays. “With Teeth” is an album to be relished with repeated listens.

    If you’ve never liked Nine Inch Nails, this album probably won’t win you over. If you disliked “The Fragile,” you also probably won’t like this album. If you disliked “The Fragile” because of its long instrumentals, but liked the actual songs, you will probably like this to. Most NIN fans in general should be pleased with “With Teeth.”

    Posted on January 8, 2010