NINE INCH NAILS, "WITH TEETH" (INTERSCOPE) ***
With 1994's "The Downward Spiral," Trent Reznor, the driven musician who
is Nine Inch Nails, created a new kind of propulsive rock utilizing a unique
palette of synthesized sounds for an album that stands as a sonic classic,
even if the angst and self-loathing of the lyrics was hard to stomach at the
time and has aged pretty poorly. Reznor fell into his own downward spiral of
drug and alcohol abuse after its release, cleaned up during a stint in
rehab, and portrayed his tender emotional state with the beautiful and
ambitious double album "The Fragile" in 1999. But its commercial failure
prompted him to fall off the wagon, and he hasn't been heard from since.
Now, a once-again clean-and-sober, 39-year-old Reznor has re-emerged
after a six-year wait on "With Teeth," and faithful fans are saying this
disc is the rightful follow-up to "The Downward Spiral." That may be true
lyrically: The anger here is directed outward toward the evils and
hypocrisies in the world -- as on the bilious single, "The Hand That Feeds"
-- rather than inward at himself, and many of the tracks display a new (for
Reznor) warmth toward humanity and belief in the power of redemption.
Sonically, however, the studio craftsman breaks no new ground, replacing
the strange electronic constructions that made the rhythms and melodies so
distinctive on "The Downward Spiral" with more conventional guitar and drum
sounds, and paring down the layered productions for a more minimal
industrial-thrash approach in the style of 1989's "Pretty Hate Machine" and
1992's "Broken." As a result, tracks such as "You Know What You Are?" and
"The Line Begins to Blur" offer the requisite rollercoaster thrills and
chills, but you have the distinct feeling you've taken this ride with Reznor
before, and the amusement park is never as much fun when you know what's
coming around the bend.