Still dressed in black: NIN's With Teeth

Thursday, June 9, 2005

With Teeth, the first Nine Inch Nails album since 1999, heralds the return of pop genius Trent Reznor. For a decade and a half, Reznor has carefully crafted music that has not only progressed on its own, but has evolved with the industry and influenced the way music is made.

The new LP, available on vinyl, CD, and dual-disc surround sound, continues this legacy. Although there is little here that will surprise even the casual NIN fan, especially those who paid attention to The Fragile or the classic Downward Spiral, the beauty found in the attention to detail and layers is more than impressive. It's almost clichÈ to say that an artist's newest album combines the strengths of all their previous efforts, but With Teeth does just that. It melts Pretty Hate Machine's pop goodness, Broken's manic energy, The Downward Spiral's cohesiveness, and The Fragile's scope into thirteen diverse songs.

The opening track, "All the Love in the World," slowly builds with descending piano chords, similar to "The Downward Spiral," before becoming a Police chorus chased by an insane bass drum. "The Line Begins to Blur" provides evidence of Reznor's shoegaze influences, and "Every Day is Exactly the Same" echoes Depeche Mode.

Elements of the lap-pop movement can be heard in the tiny beats and sounds mixed throughout the album, but this is probably due more to changes in technology, which Nine Inch Nails has always revolved around, than any attempt to follow trends. Other songs, such as "The Collector," boast some of NIN's loudest drum and bass work to date. With Teeth may not be the most memorable of Nine Inch Nails' albums, but it's easily the most solid and cohesive.

With Teeth maintains NIN as one of the few acts to survive the rubble of 90s radio and be worth a damn. Although Reznor's project didn't invent electronic rock-industrial, if you will-it has presented it in a complex formula that transcends musical boundaries while elevating pop music to the creative heights of great works of arts, rather than bringing artistic expression down to boringly mundane levels.

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