Misery loves company and the jovially-challenged Trent Reznor (for he is Nine Inch Nails) has had millions of fans hanging on his every word over the course of his 16-year career, despite only releasing three conventional studio albums until now.
The unusual thing about the release of his fourth opus, With Teeth, is not that it’s been forever coming but the fact that it’s taken an extra year beyond the five that Reznor left between each of Pretty Hate Machine, The Downward Spiral and The Fragile. In recent interviews, Reznor has said that this was so that he could sort out his alcoholism, addiction and depression. So does that mean that With Teeth marks a departure into a place of relative serenity for the hitherto demonised, perfectionist and some would say genius musician?
Er, no. Trent Reznor is still a man who could make Morrissey seem happy-clappy. After all, for the gladioli-toting one every day was merely like Sunday, but for Reznor Every Day Is Exactly The Same. As it turns out, said track is one of the stand-outs here, and a big single in the making with its apathetic but not laconic air, memorable melody and big drum fade-out. The lyrics may be gloom-tastic but Reznor’s still got a turn of phrase to raise a wry smile: “I believe I can see the future because I repeat the same routine… Every day is exactly the same. There is no love and there is no pain.”
In contrast to much of what’s out there, Nine Inch Nails’ albums are not just collections of songs with three or four “singles” dotted around in order to manipulate listeners into studying the in-between filler too. Rather, Reznor deals in bodies of music that demand to be listened to whole, where different sections are brushed from different palettes, and the moods swing – often violently, and often within the same song.
With Teeth is genre-less, but certainly not soul-less, taking in industrial rock, drum ‘n’ bass, pop, electronica and ambient threads in order to weave its spider’s web of depression.
All The Love In The World begins the album surprisingly with piano meandering over a drum ‘n’ bass beat before turning into a hypnotic, Ibiza-on-downers affair with Reznor angrily asking, “Why do you get all the love in the world?”
You Know What You Are? is the antithesis with battering drums and synthesised noise but still has a peculiarly anthemic quality as Reznor snarls, “Don’t you f**king know who you are?” (at himself, we presume).
And so it goes on, with each track displaying different virtues and each one demanding full attention from the listener. It’s almost as if the spirit of Reznor is infused into the recording, shouting at the listener, “I’ve put my everything into making this, now you’re gonna put yours into hearing it.”
There’s the staccato, drum heavy darkness of The Collector; the hooky, industrial pop of The Hand That Feeds; the eerie but cool Love Is Not Enough; the schizophrenic guitar rock to piano whisper to whirlwind of squalling noise that is the title track; the amazingly funky Only; the loud, fast and punky Getting Smaller; and the cosmic, sci-fi stylings of Sunspots before the album begins its descent into reflective claustrophobia with The Line Begins To Blur, Beside You In Time and Right Where It Belongs.
The album closes with a mournful piano after Reznor has asked what sound like rhetorical questions: “If you look at your reflection, is that all you want to be? What if you could look right through the cracks? Would you find yourself afraid, afraid to see?” Well, he might dread eyeing himself in the mirror but he needn’t worry – With Teeth should ensure that he’s less alone than ever.