I still remember the last months of my junior year in high school (April-May 2005) and I know “The Hand that Feeds” was being played like crazy on the radio. Even though this was a time when I had no interest or knowledge of the industrial genre, I was still turned off by how bad that song was. Looking at this album now, I have to laugh like mad at the title “With Teeth.” The title is supposed to imply that this is something gritty and harsh, while this is really as harsh as a baby teacup chihuahua named Tinkerbell.
Since I've already made my disgust for Trent Reznor pretty clear in my review for “The Downward Spiral,” I'll save you all the bile and focus on the album.
Just like NIN's supposed magnum opus “The Downward Spiral,” this album is loaded with phony darkness and aggression. Even worse, compared to “The Downward Spiral,” this perfectly shows that Trent Reznor is getting old rather than growing up. He was in his late thirties when “With Teeth” came out and he's still singing about teenage anger and angst. Reznor sinks even lower compared to his past efforts now that he's “tamed” his sound (not that it was extreme to begin with, because it wasn't) that makes this seem like a disco album with some distortion rather than the industrial pop he was cranking out in the 90's. At the same time, in an odd way, I feel a little less cheated since Reznor is now showing his true alternative rock/pop colors instead of dressing up the music as the darkest the industrial genre has to offer (which is precisely what he did for “The Downward Spiral”).
Again, the musicianship on this album is atrocious. Yes, Reznor knows how to make a pop melody that's infectious to mainstream music listeners, but this doesn't mean that his music is any good. Reznor further waters down his already watered down formula for industrial rock by cutting back on this distorted instruments and amping up the “accessibility” in his vocals that are more well-suited for an alternative rock band (yuck) than an industrial one. He's watered down the “darkness” and “grittiness” in his music so much, that he might as well be watering down water. The instrument work on this album is terribly weak as well. So much of the guitars, keyboards, bass, and drums all form “by the numbers” songs you'd hear in so many of the mainstream bands of the time...with the occasional industrial elements, of course.
The songs on this album are either painfully boring or trying-too-hard to be noisy and dark.
An example of the former is “Every Day is Exactly the Same.” No joke, this song sounds like a ballad from your run-of-the-mill, MTV-approved alternative rock band. “You Know What You Are” is an example of the latter and much like many of the “masterpieces” off “The Downward Spiral,” it's just another “loud” alternative hard rock song with the occasional industrial elements to it.
“With Teeth” isn't a good song by any stretch, but I did think the bass in that song was kinda catchy and cool-sounding, but that's all the praise I got for that one, as it just feels like an angst-laden b-side from Audioslave's early recording sessions. “The Hand that Feeds” is the “hit” off this album, and what a pretentious, lame song it is. It's loaded with hammy poetry and I was gritting my teeth when I heard those horrible lyrics (“What do you believe/When you bite the hand that feeds/When you chew until it bleeds”). “Getting Smaller” is another track on here that's supposed to be “noisy,” but it's really not. It honestly sounds like a hard rock “party anthem” with an “angry” aesthetic to it. “Sunspots” sounds like a bad alternative ballad with an electronically-manipulated scream behind it. “The Line Begins to Blur” is another example of Trent Reznor wanting to have his cake and eat it, too. It starts off with an industrial beat and while it maintains it, it quickly descends into bad alt-rock territory. I can keep going but I think you all get the picture.
Supposedly, Reznor wanted to stay away from making the album sound “digital,” and resorted to using more analogue instruments and recording equipment. Analogue or not, this album, like all other phony “dark and gritty” albums, has perfectly clean production and sound quality. Again, it's things like this that show Reznor is really a pop musician at heart putting up an image of being “dark.”
Skip this album and get your paws on the Front Line Assembly demo collection called “Complete Total Terror.” Despite only being demos recorded with minimal resources in 1986-87, the tracks on this collection show a true love for dark, unsettling music unadulterated by pop melodies and urges for mass appeal.
Let “With Teeth” collect dust on the store shelves, along with anything else in the music section that has NIN or Marilyn Manson stamped on it.
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With Teeth is the fourth studio album by American industrial rock act Nine Inch Nails, released on April 27, 2005 by Interscope Records. The album was produced by Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor and long-time collaborator Alan Moulder. Reznor ultimately described the album as "13 songs that are friends with each other". More specifically, he has indicated that the album is highly influenced by his battle with, and recovery from, alcoholism and substance abuse. This album generated three singles: "The Hand That Feeds", "Only", and "Every Day is Exactly the Same", which all became number-one singles on Billboards Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart. With Teeth is also one of only nine albums to have three number-one singles on the chart.