Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Awith Ateetha!

Nine Inch Nails – With Teeth

“It won't take me another five years to put out my next album.” - Trent Reznor, 1999

Six years later, I find myself lined up outside the record store at midnight on a Sunday in order to be one of the first in the world to buy the new Nine Inch Nails album. Back when I was an angsty teenager, NIN was pretty much my favorite thing in the whole world. I even loved The Fragile, which was a commercial disappointment, but then, I've never been afraid of difficult music. However over the years those albums have sunk deeper towards the bottom of my big pile of CDs, partly because of over-familiarity with them, but also because my tastes have slowly changed over that time. I wasn't sure if the new album really had much chance of living up to its forerunners, especially considering all I had to go on at that stage was its stupid name and the catchy but super-cheese single 'The Hand that Feeds'.

Fortunately it's turned out to be not too shabby! I'd still rate The Fragile and The Downward Spiral higher, but With Teeth is not a disappointment when compared to them. Let's have a big geeky NIN fanboy track by track look at it...

All the Love in the World: The opening track starts us out in familiar Fragile-style territory, with Trent's 'I'm the most miserable person in the world' crooning coming in over subdued drum and bass lines. Before long we get a nice piano riff and lots of ambient weirdness joining it. Despite the similar textures to stuff off The Fragile, it's a much more catchy accessible song than anything off that album. After listening to a few minutes of this I was wearing a big grin and remembering how much I used to love this stuff. Then there's a sudden shift in style, the piano changes to big obvious chords and we get a solid four on the floor drum beat, and too my horror, Trent starts singing in a high pitched 80s style. Fortunately once I got over the surprise I came to like that bit too.

You Know What You Are: Very loud and very angry, it would have fitted in well on The Downward Spiral or maybe even Broken. I can imagine lots of guitars being smashed onstage when they play this one. The line 'You'd better take a good look because I'm full of shit' sounds very Marilyn Manson, I wonder if that's intentional or not?

The Collector: Still heavy, but with a slower, stuttering beat. I like the lyrics, it's a bit of a different take on his normal themes. I didn't like this one much on the first listen (except for the kooky piano bit at the end), but it's grown on me a lot since then.

The Hand that Feeds: Not my favorite track, but listenable. The synth solo near the end is cool. It's probably a good live track.

Love is not Enough: Slow, angsty and heavy. Hasn't grabbed me at all so far.

Everyday is Exactly the Same: Very very catchy, and much more upbeat than your usual NIN song. Of course the lyrics are still miserable as hell, but I can see this one making a good single. Is that a melodic reference to The Downward Spiral at the beginning?

With Teeth: Another slow, heavy depressing song. I didn't like this at all the first time I heard it, especially the overblown vocals, but it's grown a little on me too. And the quiet piano break in the middle is very nice.

Only: In dramatic contrast to the last track, this one has a big cheesy disco bass line and superficially upbeat vocals. Although it doesn't quite match up to Closer in the lyrics department, like that song it blends catchy dance aspects with menacing distortion and twisted subject matter to great effect.

Getting Smaller: Described by Trent as 'a Velvet Revolver song', this one is almost straight ahead rock, driven by some absolutely killer guitar riffs. The lyrics are good too, with some nice subtextual politics (I particularly get a kick out of the flip-flop line for some reason).

Sunspots: It starts out in a similar vein as With Teeth and Love is not Enough, and I was ready to dislike it for the same reasons until it hit the chorus, which diverts it to a different mood, sad and resigned rather than frustrated and raging. There's one of the nicest musical moments on the album about halfway through, when what Meathead describes as the vacuum cleaner comes in.

The Line Begins to Blur: This one starts out frustrated and angry again with a heavy, stuttering beat, but turns pretty for the choruses. Actually, pretty is the wrong word, while the vocals are soft and sad, and the ambient noise in the background is relaxed, the string's melodies are off-kilter and weird, giving it a real spacey vibe. I like this one quite a lot, but it's had a head start in impressing me, seeing as it was leaked to the internet some time ago.

Beside You in Time: A nice droning wall of noise greats us on this track. Before long the drums come in, and the droning pulses in and out in opposite phase to the drums. It sounds really cool and, if I may permit my self a bit of wankery, almost like an aural expression of the 'bleedthrough' idea that was Trent's original concept for the album. It's the least conventional track on the album and, probably not coincidentally, my favorite track too.

Right Where it Belongs: An album closer very much in the vein of 'Hurt', but lacking the emotional intensity of that song. It's still very pretty though, and makes a nice, sad end to the album...

Home: ...or at least it would, if they hadn't tacked a bonus track on the end. I suspect that the decision to do so on the Australian release wasn't Trent's, since the album is clearly meant to end with the previous track. At any rate, it's a decent song, fitting in pretty easily with the rest of the album.

All in all, good job Trent. Hopefully he'll tour here soon, and won't take seven years to put out his next album.

1 comment:

Joel said...

Nice review, and for the most part I agree. My favourites go in this order at the moment, but they vie and juggle for position alot:

Sunspots - I never thought I'd be a fan of the falsetto in it.
Beside you in the time - the one I meant to show you that evening.
Only - the cheese is brilliant.

Perhaps by the time the weekend rolls around we can sing them crazily again!

"I just made you up to hurt myself - and it worked.... yes it did!"

*bop* *bop*