“With Teeth” by Nine Inch Nails

Artist: Nine Inch Nails
Release: With Teeth
Label: Interscope Records
Date: May 5. 2005
Genre: Industrial
Rating: 7.5

On With Teeth Trent Reznor drops most of the Sturm und Drang trappings of his previous forays through the industrial charnel house. By peering out from behind the Halloween mask, Trent comes to the realization that unadorned exploration of the human psyche is more horrifying than all the creaking doors, banging pots and video Gran Guignol that has come to be synonymous with Nine Inch Nails.

That most of With Teeth’s songs are more immediately accessible then much of NIN’s output does not mean they are any less tortured. In fact stripping away most of the aural mis en scene that has cluttered the NIN sonic landscape (as well as the instrumental passages of the last studio album, 1999’s The Fragile), allows a closer, scarier, look at these songs’ creator. So this time NIN bites NOT with the Hollywood makeup dentures of the latest teen scream film but the gnawing insecurities and psychoses with which everyday people eat themselves alive.

Opening track “All the Love in the World” sets the scene immediately, with the singer intoning “watching all the insects march along, seem to know just right where they belong” evoking the opening visuals of both King Vidor’s 1928 silent film classic The Crowd and the plight of Gregor Samsa the human-turned-cockroach of Franz Kafka’s story The Metamorphosis. Each of these works is a blueprint for the exploration of an individual’s isolation and loss of self inside mass society and it is clear from the lyrics that Trent, our protagonist, still feels like a societal “bug” even after waking one morning as a “rock star”. This idea persists throughout the album, (“No one’s heard a single word I’ve said, they don’t sound as good outside my brain”, “my world is getting smaller every day”, “every day is exactly the same”) and though Reznor is touting With Teeth as simply a series of good individual songs it does hang together well as a contemplation on a single theme.

Musically, the influence of Ministry that fired NIN’s initial album Pretty Hate Machine is still felt in the beats but there is no single immediately riveting track like “Head Like A Hole” and you are more likely to listen to the entire With Teeth album a number of times in a row rather then do track skipping “needle drops” (pardon my age.) In an interesting twist on the remix singles and EP’s usually affiliated with each NIN release Reznor has seen fit to give the general public the job of remix engineer by offering the master multi-track recordings of the first single The Hand That Feeds as an Apple Garageband file. He writes in the “read me” file that accompanies the download, “Tinker around with my tracks – create remixes, experiment, embellish or destroy what’s there.”

Considering the innumerable mixes and mash-ups of the song that have already populated The Net (with entire websites dedicated to hundred’s of variations), and the inevitable legal storm that will arise around creative copyright and fair use issues, Trent may have finally perpetrated his most overt form of musical terrorism and has certainly bitten the hand that feeds him.

Track Listing:
1. All The Love In The World
2. You Know What You Are?
3. The Collector
4. The Hand That Feeds
5. Love Is Not Enough
6. Every Day Is Exactly The Same
7. With Teeth
8. Only
9. Getting Smaller
10. Sunspots
11. The Line Begins To Blur
12. Beside You In Time

Official Website: www.NIN.com

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