music album REVIEW:
- Nine Inch Nails: With Teeth (2005)
NIN's most song-y album. That is to say: here it's the song-writing, beginning (unusually for NIN) with the lyrics, that is the album's main asset. The sound is typically NIN too: massive, edgy, complex, unnerving, brim-full with ideas. But here it's all in the service of the songs … that was somewhat different with "The Downward Spiral"
, which was much more a musical statement.
As always with NIN, it takes time to really get to the bottom of the album as a unified whole (but it does turn out to be just that once you get to that point, which, however, can perhaps take some 20 times listening to it if not more).
Thematically the album deals with Trent Reznor's own struggle with "cleaning up", saying goodbye to drugs, for which he had gone through painful rehab. Several tracks have this "from the inside" atmosphere, at times brimming with power and at others more the fragile, doubting side comes through. It is, in short: deep. One track, however, namely "The hand that feeds", stands out by being a lot more immediately accessible than is normal for NIN, and in fact he was criticized for just that, as too easily consumable. But I find its straight hammer-on-the-anvil appeal doesn't wear off. This track was also Trent Reznor's step into the territory of political songs – anti-Bush. Not in the explicit in-your-face way that many other artists articulated their discontent at the time, but still a statement.
The absolute overall stand-out track, however, comes right at the end and in a completely different guise: "Everything where it belongs". A ballad of sorts. No noisy aggression at any point, but developing an emotional power that leaves me gasping for air every single time I hear this song. Musically and structurally it's actually a very simple song. What makes it so great is the meshing of the lyrics with the production that so fuels the overall effect and elevates it to a level which makes this my No.1 favourite song of all time. A particular trick is what happens a bit beyond halfway through, when suddenly the up to then rather narrow, almost muffled sound suddenly broadens into wide-screen ambience and at the same time focuses pointedly on the voice in the centre (the thematic interpretation is quite clear to me too). It's awesome – blows me away every time. The ending is also very cleverly produced with the final piano notes suddenly standing alone in an empty universe. I never play the bonus track that my version of the album has tacked on to this finale. It just doesn't feel right. "Everything where it belongs" is one of those extremely rare songs that can't be followed by anything, really. A song to end all songs, as it were. … well, at least you need a breather to recover. And this applies to the whole album of course.