When I tell friends and acquaintances that I lived in New Orleans, besides inquiring about Mardi Gras, the two names that they ask about are usually Anne Rice and Trent Reznor. Although I never had the pleasure of meeting or seeing Madame Rice, Reznor was actually a neighbor of mine. We were far from buddies and I doubt I would call us friends, but I did have the great fortune of meeting and talking to him on a number of occasions. The first time was after a The The show at the House of Blues where I spoke with Trent for a few minutes. He was very friendly, kind and respectful, far from the Dark Lord Prima Donna I had heard about. What I remember most about meeting Reznor that night and every other time was the fact that Trent would always shake my hand. How many people can say that they actually spoke to one of their idols and they shook your hand afterwards?
Enough with the chisme, as an old friend used to tell me, and on with the music. From the first single “Down on It” in 1989, I have been a supporter of Nine Inch Nails, even being one of the first in my high school class to have their tape and t-shirt. What is it about Nine Inch Nails that gives them such a deep connection with their audience? It has to be the hurt and the rejection that we all feel. I believe that Reznor completely personifies the agony in our pain with his trademark aggro style.
Many fans still think that The Downward Spiral is Nine Inch Nails’ best record but I am partial to The Fragile, which I say is a brave and beautiful masterpiece. I remember when it was released. I was working a dead-end office job and I used to have this cheap-o boom-box that I would jam tapes on, much to my co-workers’ chagrin — The Fragile was one that I would play over and over again. I must have played it over a million times but it got me through those bad days. And I told Reznor so when I first met him.
The thing I loved about The Fragile was that fact that it wasn’t in your face like Spiral, that you really have to sit down dissect and listen to it. It’s not a record with singles like “Closer” that jump out at you. You have to let the record wash over you and reflect on it as if you’re observing a piece of art at the Louvre in Paris.
With Teeth, however, is a record that will satisfy most Nine Inch Nails fans. I love the way Reznor transitions the songs on the record from the hushed to the hellacious. It starts off with the low keyboard-layered “All the Love in the World” and moves into the drum and bass metal of “You Know Who You Are.”
I have to admit when I first heard the first single “The Hand That Feeds,” I had my doubts. I worried would this be the record by Nine Inch Nails that would finally let me down. After my first spin, my worries were laid to rest. Teeth sounds like a tighter, more focused version of The Fragile with elements of industrial metal of Broken, and controlled musical chaos of The Downward Spiral.
My favorite track has to be “All the Love in the World.” I love the way he layers the vocals, a-la Brian Wilson, towards the latter half. It adds a bit of beauty to it and lifts the track from being just another angry song to another level. Other highlights include the “Billie Jean”-inspired backbeat and “Down In It”-reflective lyrics on “Only.” Reznor has definitely brought out his best on With Teeth. All the elements are here, especially the hardcore drums, which stand out thanks to help from Dave Grohl and Jerome Dillon on “The Collector.” The Mike Garson-inspired keyboard arise throughout and Reznor’s trademark angry poetic musings screaming and sometimes whispered are all around on this stunning album.
It’s time to welcome Trent Reznor back into our lives. Open wide and let With Teeth find a home inside. You will not forget the aftertaste of Teeth —captivating, dangerous and 100% Nine Inch Nails.
Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral
Nine Inch Nails – Broken
Nine Inch Nails – The Fragile