Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Wonderful Sounds of NIN

"The Fragile" didn't come close to meeting expectations, but the tour was a hit and so was the eventual DVD. Nobody bothered to listen to all 893 hours of that double album, but overall, the CD was still something of an event (expect essays in approximately 20 years that hail it as a misjudged masterpiece, the alterna-generation's very own "Tusk"). But one year later, it feels as though "With Teeth" didn't even happen. This tends to happen when you insist on spending five years between album releases throughout your entire career. Sure, the long wait builds anticipation and turns the eventual release into a big event, but the shtick gets old after fifteen years and the law of diminishing returns rots into the picture. You can only make so many grand comebacks and expect people to keep caring.

But no matter what he does, Trent Reznor always finds a way to make his music sound great while doing it. He's our very own Eric Clapton, sort of. Everything he touches (outside of the Marilyn Manson crunch-rock portion of his career) sounds fantastic, filled with layers of moody chords, sizzling distortion, and hummable melodies. It all sounds so big, so cavernous, so meant to be played on gigantic speakers. "With Teeth" is an underrated record that could have been a classic if Reznor hadn't tried to ruin significant parts of it with underproduced crap like "Only". I can only assume that he felt like dabbling in blues and wanted to make the most of Dave Grohl's drumming talents. But the best tracks on this record, most notably the pulsating, mind-numbing "Beside You In Time" easily rank high among his back catalogue.

Admittedly, that may be damning Reznor with faint praise -- I haven't even felt the need to listen to "The Downward Spiral" (sans the indispensible "Closer") in years.

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