Sixteen years into Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor still suffers from the same aggressive depression that made his music a popular counterpart to Nirvana in the early ’90s. But post-NIN material has shown how Reznor’s songwriting has entered a stagnance that’s inappropriate for the 39-year-old rock star.
Reznor has always capitalized on his “tortured artist” image. Most listeners feel some affinity for the band’s S&M-style lyrics (“I wanna fuck you like an animal,” anyone?), but with Nine Inch Nails’ MTV popularity mostly behind them, With Teeth remains dedicated to their quintessential style. Fans will especially appreciate the effort that Reznor put into making the album, which is a masterwork of studio production. The opening track, “All the Love in the World,” is a catchy and enjoyable song; fitted with poppy drum machine beats and an ominous piano line, it moves in several directions before settling on Reznor’s howl.
But while Nine Inch Nails’ diehard fans won’t be disappointed by With Teeth, anyone who isn’t stuck in the rebellious phase may find Reznor’s efforts insincere and forced. Song titles like “Every Day is Exactly the Same” demonstrate how Reznor is trying to force the torment. And though several songs offer a unique form, With Teeth generally consists of the standard, verse-chorus-verse layout topped with Reznor’s whisper-scream vocals.
How long does Reznor think he can act like a tortured artist before his fans catch on to his formula? Despite his wannabe-expressionistic style, With Teeth inspires ambivalence because Reznor is wasting his considerable capabilities. It’s time he moves past his anger and depression and embraces a more sophisticated songwriting medium.
Rating: 3 of 5 stars