Here at EvilSponge, we exist on the fringes of Music Culture, proselytizing away about obscure bands that most of the world has never heard of. I mean, Loscil, Landing, Portal -- i love these bands and rant about them, but who is familiar with their work (or can even pronounce the name, in the case of Loscil!)? And yet, here i am writing a review of an album that millions have heard. Have there been radio hits off of With Teeth? Honestly, i listen to college radio or CDs in the car, so i have no idea. Maybe there are.
So, Nine Inch Nails. I have liked this band since 1989, and still have my original vinyl copy of Pretty Hate Machine. I like Nine Inch Nails because they make energetic, catchy music, and because i feel that i have an ineffable bond with Trent Reznor. You see, we are from the same city: Cleveland, Ohio. And even though i left there at a tender age for the sweaty warmth of the South, i still am a Cleve in some way. Actually, now that i type that out, it looks kind of silly. Well, whatever. Let's just say that i like Nine Inch Nails.
And yet, the last album i bought by them was The Downward Spiral. I even went to see them on that tour, at the now-demolished Omni Arena in Atlanta. However, that album never stuck with me. I can't even name a song off of it without getting up and going to the CD shelf. If i listen to Nine Inch Nails these days, i tend to spin Pretty Hate Machine or play Wish at neighbor-annoying volumes and bounce around my apartment.
Then With Teeth came out, and chatter on the internet was that it was a good album, catchy and energetic. Everything i like Nine Inch Nails for. And one day, whilst perusing the stacks at my local used CD emporium, i came across a copy for a mere US$7. A bargain, and at this place they let you listen to CDs on individual headphone units. So i got the employee to put it on, and i sat and listened. And listened. And listened. After 20 minutes, i decided that i needed this copy.
It's good. Quite simply, this is a solid modern rock album. Tension and anger seethe under a weight of powerful rhythms, screamed vocals, thudding bass, and soaring guitars. Old Trent has put together a great lineup for the current incarnation of his band.
You pretty much know what Nine Inch Nails sounds like at this point, i mean, who doesn't? Well, there is a slight change here, and it seems like a totally natural progression. Basically, a dash of electroclash has been added to the angry industrial rock Nine Inch Nails is known for. What, you don't know what electroclash is? Well, we have been kind of circling the genre here without every really reviewing it. Go download something by The Faint, and read our Octopus Project and Apocalypse Pow reviews, then come back here and carry on.
So, yes, a few of the songs here take the electroclash new wavishness and mix it in with Reznor's late 80s industrial dance furor. It's most noticeable on Only, where the drums sound mechanical and the keyboards drive the tune along. In general, this is a simply wonderful song, with great basswork and guitar that goes all FSA fuzzy on the choruses. Good stuff.
Sunspots also bears a bit of an electroclash stamp, with supple menacing bass, extremely overdriven guitars (almost to the level of My Bloody Valentine!), and a great, seesawing, high-pitched keyboard riff.
However, i have to admit, those are the only two songs that have an overt influence. Otherwise, it is a subtle influence. Perhaps my comparison of With Teeth to electroclash is based more on my current listening habits than on Reznor's. Perhaps.
Anyway, the album also features some really great modern rock tunes, with truly thunderous drumming (rumor has it that Dave Grohl added the drum parts, and i believe it, since the drumming is good throughout) and loud crunchy guitars. In particular, i think that You Know What You Are and The Hand That Feeds no doubt get the kids out into the mosh pit. Both are powerful tunes that seethe along nicely.
But, Reznor can also write a pop tune. The title track (which Reznor inexplicably pronounces "with-a teeth-a" – maybe he has been listening to The Fall a lot lately as well), moves along ponderously with scattered drumming and generally sparse instrumentation. Very nice. Also, Beside You In Time builds out of a nice seesawing guitar, staccato drum hits, and plinking keyboards.
Overall, i am impressed. This is a good, solid album. Keep up the nice work, Mr. Reznor.