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Nine Inch Nails With Teeth: Trent Reznor Pulls Out Of The Tailspin

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I’ve got to kick off this review by saying that I am positively dumbfounded by how many music critics just do not get this record. I have read so many reviews saying that all the familiar self-loathing and angst is back, and that could not be more untrue. People, this record features high-voiced crooning, prettily performed piano ballads and songs about getting over your damned self by Trent Reznor! I contend, in fact, that With Teeth is unremittingly positive: it’s about affirmation, accepting responsibility for one’s demons, phoenix-like resurgence, and pulling oneself together, for crissakes. There is nothing desolate, desperate, or otherwise despairing about With Teeth.

In view of that, I can’t believe how many rock critics are shamefully not worth their salt, and I want to especially call out Rob Sheffield, who wrote Rolling Stone’s golden handshake, and whose review reads like he saw the “Wish” video years ago, and listened to 45 seconds of each song before writing it. I can only guess that after years of Reznor’s melodramatic angst, some critics have just become inured to all the yowling, drama and volume. That’s legitimate, I suppose, both in view of the yowling, and the fact that professional rock critics probably spend all day churning out glib reviews, but there’s been a sea change in the Empire of Dirt, and a glib once-over is no response to an artist like Trent Reznor.

The evidence that we’re on new ground is there from the outset. With Teeth opens with “All The Love In The World”, a song that is just an unabashed sonic pleasure, and features the aforementioned piano and crooning, blending Reznor’s soft touch and hard edges with deft tunefulness. Asking the rhetorical question, “Why do you get all the love in the world?” very likely of his monstrous and obsessively worshipped persona as a gut-wrenched feral animal, this song makes as convincing a case as I can imagine for health being a better field to plow than sickness for a man of Reznor’s talents. Especially nice is the way he cuts himself off in the verses before allowing it to work up into a lather of cliched whinging (“Sometimes I get so lonely I could… /Why do you get all the love in the world?”), and even better is how, midway through, the piano ushers in layers of joyful harmony before it builds into a funky and gorgeous revelry in pure sound. “All The Love In The World” has the feeling of a man who has found his voice after a long loss, and remembered that it was beautiful. It also introduces us to Reznor’s piano, which, throughout this CD, feels like a character in the narrative of With Teeth in an almost literary sense – one who wanders around in fields of noise, appears prettily around corners of volume, and shores up mountains of electronic buzz and beat with a sort of elemental calming warmth – as if the piano is the musical proxy of the better angels of Reznor’s nature.

Pitting a whisper against a scream, and the notion of a divided self have always been a hallmark of Reznor’s songwriting, but on With Teeth, the volume and intensity doesn’t assault, rebuke, and punish you like The Downward Spiral and parts of The Fragile did. If there is a soft touch here, it isn’t the coy come-on before he rips your head off; it’s the heart of it this work – his voice and piano speaking of sadness, anger, resignation, fear and finally a self-aware, realistic hopefulness – with a new openness and clarity that invites you to enjoy the texture of the sound and emotion without retribution. When the inevitable yowling does begin, and it kicks into full-throated gear on track two, complete with the inimitable way Reznor rocks the F-word like no one else, it’s with a positive lucidity that has never been present on a Nine Inch Nails record. Instead of indulgent self-loathing and petty resentment, we have a guy looking in the mirror, knowing he’s not where he should be. Reznor’s screeched “Don’t you fucking know what you are?” decays in the electronic soup, and is replaced by a whispered “Remember where you came from, remember what you are.” Dave Grohl’s drums replace the digital precision of Reznor’s habitual looped beats with an aggressively human warmth, as the piano underneath the chorus strikes minor notes of ominous warning. The whisper turns into a new roar, but this time, it’s as if he’s reminding himself of his own value before the machine slowly gives way to the piano, which finishes the track alone, like a rueful memory of what’s real.

The clarity keeps coming on With Teeth, with “The Collector”, which, to my mind, takes on the icky-sicky symbiotic relationship Reznor’s melodramatic alter-ego manufactures with it’s audience – collecting feelings to “feed upon,” cherishing the drama and putting oneself in the way of things that destroy heart and soul. The allusion to The Downward Spiral is strong here, “I am the plague, I am the swarm” recalling the beehive noises of that record, but unlike it, also places those evils in his own agency – part of him, and his choices, rather than casting him as a victim. It’s an excellent precursor to the album’s first single; and while “The Hand That Feeds” has the a political edge of a call to arms in response to current U.S. foreign policy, it could also be read as a coalescence of the first three songs, and biting the hand that has fed him for all the years that being a fucked-up, miserable, reclusive bastard have been Reznor’s stock-in-trade. It’s straightforward, hard-driving and purposeful, but it’s probably the song with the shortest half-life on the album.

Variations on these themes continue throughout With Teeth. “Everyday Is Exactly The Same” paints a vivid picture of the wasteland of depression that anyone who has ever known the “noonday demon” will immediately recognize, while “Love Is Not Enough” recalls The Downward Spiral’s “Closer” with “The closer we think we are/It never got us so far/Now you got anything left to show?/No, no I didn’t think so.” It’s an interesting echo, because “Closer” was ostensibly a song about dysfunctional fucking, but at it’s heart, it’s was also about the disappointing fact that salvation is not to be found by losing oneself in sex and love. “Love Is Not Enough” continues the theme of getting ahold of oneself, admitting the lies we tell ourselves, and acknowledging agency in that disappointment. “With Teeth” personifies addiction as a jealous lover, and then denies her, and “Only” tells the monster that took over years of Reznor’s life to fuck off with a funky 80’s disco beat and a spoken word delivery that is not without a wry, self-aware humor. Who among us ever thought it would be possible to write that last sentence in reference to His Dark, Raging, Imperial Majesty?

It all wraps up with “Right Where It Belongs”, the most beautiful, clear-minded, and least desolate song Trent Reznor has ever written. “Right Where It Belongs” feels like listening to his thoughts, or walking through his dreams, with it’s backdrop of car and crowd noises. The comparison to The Downward Spiral’s tearful closer is irresistible, and it shares an undeniable sense of elemental singularity with “Hurt”, but thematically, it’s a million miles away, with a self kept instead of lost. “What if everything around you isn’t quite as it seems,” he sings, softly, accompanying himself on the piano, “what if everything you think you know is an elaborate dream?” There’s tremendous power in realizing that you’ve got a hand in creating your reality, and in accepting the power to change what’s wrong. The Trent Reznor who’s always been stretched out on the rack of his personal demons – the tortured victim of all that shouldn’t be – couldn’t have written this song.

There was a real power in Reznor’s outright, full-throttle rejection of anything that wasn’t pure – including himself – and his intrepid willingness to go all the way was thrilling, recalling Marcel Proust’s exhortation to “never be afraid of going too far, for the truth lies always beyond.” As much as Reznor’s prior work has been front-loaded with self-loathing and destruction, it’s always ultimately been about a desire for truth and pure, elemental subjectivity. With Teeth has all of Reznor’s careful genius, but without the claustrophobia; and in the least skeevy way possible, it’s packed with self-love and reconstruction. After 1999’s worrying two disc epic, The Fragile, which felt less like a follow-up to The Downward Spiral’s promise than a scary detour into a desolate, if gorgeous, no man’s land, With Teeth offers the enormous aesthetic satisfaction of a derailed narrative put to rights, and it’s a beautiful record. For the first time in his career, Trent Reznor has built himself an open road.

I can’t wait to hear what happens next.

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About Jaime Nichols

  • Kate

    THIS is a beautiful column. Just what I was hoping for to intorduce me to his new work. More thanks.

  • bryan

    What a beautiful breakdown of a truly wonderful record. For all of his Reznor’s recent talk about this not being a concept album, I think this critic has revealed the real truth at play — this is the work of an artist who has rediscovered his voice, and he’s neither going through the motions because he can (U2) nor keeping his emotional core at that safe, arms’ length distance so prevelant in benign radio rock (Weezer).

    Ms. Nichols is right — this is a record of resurgence and rebirth, but in a sense it’s collaborative. It’s the Artist proposing that we meet up with him in his place of new, revitalized world-view, with nothing more than the joy of his abilities and the convictions of his his beliefs to show the way.

    Challenging himself. Challenging us. The line does begin to blur.

  • jason

    finally…thank you for realizing the beauty that is “with teeth”

  • jason

    and for anyone who wants to go even deeper into this cd’s message, I suggest reading “The Lathe of Heaven” by Ursula K. LeGuin, trent cited this source once during the recording of the album for a small amount of time on the homepage.

  • http://www.zaldor.com Zaldor

    Very good review – I couldn’t have said it better myself! This is beginning to be one of Trent’s best works… :)

  • Dawn

    Another excellent review! Have to get this cd asap.

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    one of the best reviews i’ve read in a while here.

    …and now i’ve gotta get the danged cd too.

  • Howler

    Thank you for such a thoughtful review! You are so right about this record. I think it’s Reznor’s best.

  • Eric Olsen

    just super Jaime, you have penetrated the Trentian psyche. Thanks!

  • http://crazyjaneski.typepad.com Jaime Nichols

    Eric & everybody else: Thanks for the compliments. I’m all a-flutter. It’s nice to be able to write a response to this very nice record that frankly, I love the bejesus out of. As for penetrating the Trentian psyche, I think you should be careful when using the words “penetrate” and Trent” in the same sentence. Cue Beavis and Butthead-style sniggering.

    Blogcritics is fun! Thanks for having me.

  • brian

    wow! I already know how beautiful the record is, but also, what an amazing review of how beautiful it is.

  • http://www.dalexdesign.ca David

    excellent review. there’s a few conceptual artists out there in the music industry. NIN being one of them. Having the privilege to deal with a performer as open-minded and conscious about his work like he is, it’s a real delight for listeners and quite too rare in 2005.

  • onebyone

    THE best review I have read yet. It is nice to hear someone not only get the CD, aka that Trent is better and not ashamed, but to welcome that.

  • Max

    I very much enjoyed reading your review. It’s nice to see someone actually peel back the surface when reviewing With Teeth, and truly understand that this record is not about teen angst, being isolated or all that other whiney shit that many “professional” reviewers label Trent with these days.

    Great review!

  • deco

    finally someones gets the album the way it sounds to me… thank u, there is a god^^

  • http://moony.raining-flames.net Kim

    Thank you so much for writing this review. Yours is the only one I’ve read so far that’s bothered to see the album for what it truly is, and you took the words right out of my mouth.

  • http://www.devotedtobookcrossing.com themarina

    Brilliant review. As per everyone eleses comments, it was wonderful to read a review that took into consideration the new NIN and didn’t just provide the same rehash of years past.

    Well done. And yes, the album is fantastic.

  • http://www.vividfocus.com Taylor Pile

    Dude, I totally agree. I’ve been reading all these reviews and most are giving the album average marks. I can’t believe it. Read this crap.
    If you scroll down this guy is review the album and calls it “White Teeth” wtf is that? And he states that reznor hasn’t pushed the envelope enough. Agian, wtf? I haven’t heard anything this groundbreaking since his last album. Reznor is light years ahead of any musician out today and I stand behind that.

    Thanks for hearing the album and giving it the review it deserves.

    NIN

  • Jake

    VERY well written. Thank you, it was nice to actually read a review for With Teeth by somebody who actually knows what they’re talking about. Thanks again.

  • dan

    This review was as good of a review as with teeth is of an album.(excelent!)

  • Patrick

    I was beginning to wonder if any of the reviewers had this perspective on the cd. Awesome job and this should be the article in Rolling Stone rather than the horrible one they wrote. Thank you.

  • john murran

    ” WITH THE TEETH AH! ”
    great review, thanks.
    i want money back from my yearly roling stone subcribtin, so diapointed.

  • Mark

    Man…i’m so glad someone finally wrote a true review. Everything in this article is exactly what I heard in the album. It wasn’t another self loathing album but a look at two different personalities, and realizing the things he created in himself and around him. Great review and AWESOME album.

  • T’Kir

    This is one of the best album reviews I have read in a long time, it was both a gratifying read and very thoughtful!

    I like your alternative suggestion for the meaning of The Hand That Feeds… although my first hearing of the track made me think of Trents acrimonious split with his ex-manager (before I read the lyrics and the interviews stating the war aspect).

    I would’ve liked to have heard your thoughts on the other tracks not mentioned in your review: Getting Smaller (‘flip-flop’), Sunspots, The Line Begins to Blur and Beside You in Time. But anyway, a really enjoyable review :-)

  • static

    YOU GET IT! An excellent review for an incredible album! Thank you for being the one critic that is open-minded!
    This is yet another NIN album that proves to be a brilliant work of art. There are few artists that remain that have the integrity, the vision and the follow-through to create the whole package deal… that which consists of the music, the design and the performance. Very inspirational! In fact, I think I’m going to lock myself in my studio right now…

  • Gerry

    I am glad that all of you seem to ‘get it’ unlike this jack hole! Please read this

  • http://www.soundclick.com/bands/5/aetherius.htm Rab

    While this is a good read, it’s pretty speculative. Seemed like you were making up your own narrative and applying it to the songs rather than taking the songs, and drawing the narrative from them. Though, I’d agree that many songs seem like an answer to the questions or statements of ‘the downward spiral.’ for example, you say ‘Right where it belongs’ is like keeping oneself rather than losing oneself, well… maybe, seems like he’s questioning himself. That said, looking at hurt’s lyrics ‘If I could start again…I would keep myself.’ well, he HAS started again, and he HAS kept himself. So….connection made.

  • duck of death

    great review…what pisses me off about the few critics who have panned ‘with teeth’ is that it seems as if these guys just pulled out their rolodexes and said ‘lets see…NIN…angst…self-loathing’ and then just plugged these cliches into their negative review templates and never bothered to actually LISTEN to the album in its entirety. 2 minutes into the first song and trent breaks into a JOYOUS semi-gospel stomp. anyone who at this point didn’t realize that something different is going on here is either tone-deaf or just has an axe to grind. f-ing dilettantes!!!!

  • http://crazyjaneski.typepad.com Jaime Nichols

    Rab: You’re right, it is speculative. I can be inside of Trent Reznor’s brain and know what he thought, nor can any reviewer. All any of us have is our own brains with which to process what we hear. I’m sure I’ve gone wrong here or there, but there’s more to a work of art than authorial intention. I still think you have to have not actually HEARD the record (or actually have used your brain) to think it contains more of the same old angsty fare from him, though. This record is a departure, no matter how you look at it, and I think an intelligent read is possible if you’ve paid attention.

    As for the million miles away, he sings, in the first song “I’ve become a million miles a…” So, it’s a good guess, at least, since he’s actually said as much, that this is a new start. With Teeth contains loads of little literal and aural allusions to past work. It’s rich and delicious.

    Big thank you’s to everyone who’s posted kind words here!

  • sentient02970

    thank you so much for a refreshing and accurate review of this album. You NINailed it! awesome job

  • JP

    Wow there are critics out there that actually can lend something to the music being critiqued. An excellent review and understanding of a piece of work that needs this type of critique.

  • Eric Olsen

    very glad to see your review is getting the kind of attention and response it deserves Jaime

  • Kate

    I’ve just looked at the other reviews of the album out there. I am amazed. They are either loaded with bile from some poor personal perspective that obviously lives in a box with specifically delineated sides (no room for other perspectives, other worlds) or these reviewers are the biggest lazy pants in Reviewerdom. Is this what we are left with…media that can say anything about anything and make it true?! What happened to reviewers like this one who take the time to actually understand the art they are reviewing?! Do these people think an artist spends this kind of time and effort just to be elevator music for the masses like (ugh) Brittany Spears? And, more importantly do they actually think the public is stupid…unable to understand? It boggles. WHY do they have their jobs?

  • Right ON!

    A-fucking-men. I cannot believe how retarded the reviewers of this record have been They don’t have brains.

  • courtni

    Thanks for sharing with us the most thoughtful and well-written music review I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. While there’s some use for reviews that point out criticisms that I might not pick up on, I put more of my trust and respect into a review such as this where the album wasn’t just casually heard but actually listened to. I especially appreciate your point about how amazing the piano work is on this album. I completely agree and love the album for it. Great job!

  • Peter Wright

    Sorry, this is not a positive album and sorry, Trent Reznor is not a role model. The last thing this guy needs is your patronizing praise of his efforts to be understood or his attempts at personal growth. He’s been wrestling with his demons WITHOUT success since Pretty Hate Machine. He’s reached a wall; he can’t go further on his path to redemption WITHOUT HELP.
    So where does that leave you, dear listener? Well, considering the insight into the human psyche he’s offered up to you over the years, you could at least humbly acknowledge that you haven’t got the experience or insight to even try to speak on his level. And you could put away the down the nose, “we know Trent’s best interests” attitude, because that just makes you an armchair quarterback. With Teeth could be remembered as his swansong, for better or for worse; and if you want it to be better, than get off your ass and participate in the world around you instead of hiding away in your little foxholes with your headphones on.

  • Peter Wright

    Apologies for the harsh tones in my comments, and upon further reflection, Trent IS in fact a role model. My sentiments regarding his future are the same. When he says “No one’s heard a single word I’ve said”, he’s talking directly to you.

  • http://crazyjaneski.typepad.com Jaime Nichols

    Peter, are you aware of the online liner notes for With Teeth? If you read the words to “All The Love In The World” you’ll find that there are lyrics that are not sung, but which are included in the song in the liner notes, and they make it pretty clear that no one is hearing him while he’s stuck inside his head with his sickness, addictions and depression, It isn’t that his listeners don’t hear him because they’re so incapable of comprehending him, it’s because he is separated from their hearing and stuck someplace where his communication is hindered.

    For corroboration of that, you can check the online notes if you own the record, or check for the full lyrics to that song here: http://9inchnails.com/lyrics/songs.php?id=813

    As to Trent Reznor’s prospects, I think they look pretty good right now — especially in light of this latest work — but time will tell. I certainly wish him every good thing.

  • Bryan

    On the contrary, Peter, I think your entire post, though well intentioned, just suffers from a little bit of misinformation.

    I’m sure by “help” you mean therapy; Reznor’s been going for quite some time now, and claims to be in a much happier state of mind. As somebody that’s seen this recent tour, and the self-destruct tour in 1994, I can attest to the fact that there were significant pathos and demons being embraced and exorcised nightly 10 years ago. What I saw in Indio was somebody smiling, having a great time belting out some really good songs.

    I can’t quite tell from post if you’re a fan of Reznor’s work and angry with the reviewer for not agreeing with some dogmatic, Angry Young Boy version of the world (and Trent Reznor) that you happen to be particularly desperate to cling to, or if you’re simply bored with what you see as a thematic repetition in Nine Inch Nails.

    The latter is a perfectly valid criticism, though one that can be argued against, and the former is quite simply not the issue of this writer, nor of any reviewer.

    The last sentence of your post — “than get off your ass and participate in the world around you instead of hiding away in your little foxholes” — is precisely what I feel the theme of “With Teeth” as an album to be, and is the same theme that Ms. Nichols has quite effectively (judging from both my reaction, the response the article received, and your left-field virtrol) underscored.

    So which is it? Because getting off your ass and participating in the world seems, in my mind, quite a positive message indeed.

  • Pardon?

    I can’t detect any condescension or armchair quarterbacking in this review, which strikes me as spot on in terms of the WITH TEETH I’m listening to. Peter Wright, you sound like a guy with an axe to grind. After reading your post I had two thoughts – first, that posting comments should never be undertaken while drunk, and second, what crawled up this guy’s ass?

    Dude! Chill out.

  • Sophia

    Another case of blogs kicking MSM in the ass.
    Thank you so much for the work put into this amazing review, one of the best I’ve read in a while and without a doubt the best “With Teeth” one. Trully worthy of the album.

    Congrats.

  • Chantel

    How refreshing to see that others see and FEEL what I do about this album. It is the most beautiful work Trent has ever crafted – a piece that I’m carrying with me every where I go and can’t stop listening. I love everything he has ever done, and after With Teeth – I can not wait to see where he goes.

  • peter wright

    Jaime, when you say that he is incapable of communicating because of his addictions, depression, etc., that is the core of your condescension. When the other blogger saw help to mean “therapy”, again, it’s condescension. The problem Trent has in communicating is not that he isn’t clear; you all can surely attest to that. The problem is the listener is just not hearing or understanding. It’s the mob of people who insist that cognitive awareness to dark realities is a sickness that have convinced even Trent that there’s something wrong with him. There isn’t. Think about this; how much do you really know about reality beyond your doorstep and your TV screen? You have to answer that honestly before you can talk therapy mumbo jumbo and speak about Trent’s musings in definitive terms.

  • Bryan

    Peter, I don’t quite know what perspective you’re coming from, nor what your aim is, as you don’t necessarily seem to present a viewpoint of your own; you’re seeming to just rant against other people’s points of view. Which doesn’t lead to much of a dialogue, but I guess I’ll follow your lead and simply address your reactions rather than your views.

    When I mentioned “help” as therapy, I was not simply making something up. In the interviews preceding the release of this latest record, Reznor has gone into great detail about the positive effects that psychotherapy has had on him, and how it has — in hand with his sobriety — opened him up creatively in ways he never felt comfortable with before. This isn’t condescension on my part; it’s listening to what the Artist is saying and taking his word for it.

    You seem to think that you know Trent Reznor’s “true” headspace better than he does himself — you infer that he has been brainwashed into thinking his social anxiety and manic tendencies are “wrong”, when he should be embracing them — and that the ignorance of his fans is partially responsible for bolstering this view. (“It’s the mob of people who insist that cognitive awareness to dark realities is a sickness that have convinced even Trent that there’s something wrong with him. There isn’t.”) I can’t think of anything more condescending than saying you understand somebody’s mental state better than they do themselves, and resisting their own quite open and honest statements about where they feel they are, in favor of holding on to an interpretation that bolsters your own pre-existing viewpoint.

    Think about this; how much do you really know about the life of Trent Reznor, beyond what you’ve decided you already know? Your grade school “kill your television” dogma isn’t a revelation; it’s an obvious attempt at inflammation and hackle-raising. It’s a t-shirt slogan at best.

  • http://crazyjaneski.typepad.com Jaime Nichols

    Peter: You are so much more condescending that I ever thought of being. You don’t know me at all, or have any idea what I know or don’t know, or if I even own a TV.

    You are absolutely right to say that Trent Reznor has always been VERY clear, and if you think it’s better for him to eat himself alive and live in the darkness with his demons despite what he himself says, the condescension is all yours. The words to that song pretty clearly detail an unhappy state of not being able to engage, think, or communicate that is all his. The actual text of that song reads:

    “Why am I always watching from the outside?
    On the other side of the glass behind glass
    Always watching everyone separate
    Watching always don’t touch this is getting deeper
    As time goes by the water’s getting colder
    Here I am surrounded by people but still all alone
    Even with myself imprisoned in my head
    And there doesn’t seem to be any way to get out
    And I am so fucking sick of here wish I was there
    Right beside is still a million miles away
    Behind these bars in a rut anyplace will do

    Hello? Didn’t think so
    Broadcasting only static coming in
    No one can hear me when I’m in here”

    What are you saying here? That Reznor should stay in his dark dungeon of misery with his cognitive awareness of darker realities because THAT’S truth? What privileges his darkness with that special status? Further, in my opinion, as much as Reznor has always seen darkness with special clarity, it’s been because he’s wanted the light; and not just some tepid culturally accepted version of “the light” but absolute, uncompromised truth, and he was willing to wreck himself to search for it. I think a rage for what is best and highest has been a huge component of every single thing he’s ever done, and you should be careful about making a judgement about what I (or Trent Reznor, for that matter) think constitutes the best and highest.

    Further, I’d like to point out that I’m not making any attempt to psychoanalyse Trent Reznor, nor have I ever feared his darkness. I am listening to his record, which is my place as a reviewer, and listening to WHAT IT SAYS.

    If Trent Reznor says that he wants out of his darkness, and if he says that he’s been miserable and stifled as an artist because he’s depressed, an addict, and suffering from social anxiety disease, says that’s not a good place to be, and indicates that he wants out, then I am willing to believe what he says, rather than assuming that I know better what’s in his head and heart than he does.

  • Peter Wright

    Our generation believes in no absolute truth; rather “you have your truth and I have mine”. Jaime, your interest in Trent’s work shows me you are searching for an absolute. (Why else would anyone have such a strong interest in suffering and soul searching?) To say Trent’s truth is different from mine(Peter’s), you are clouding the issue; perpetuating the problem.
    If Trent does what he refers to as “standing beside you in time”, isn’t that the equivalent of giving up the fight he’s waged so powerfully for so many years? That’s not stepping into light; quite the opposite– it’s “fading away”.
    What satisfaction can be derived from that? Isn’t a fulfilling answer to the soul searching we’ve seen from him the best possible outcome, rather than a surrendering to fear and peer pressure to conform to cultural norms?
    The missing link in this equation that you may not see is that suffering is a teacher, just like a textbook, but more informative. In other words, we should be saying to Trent, “Don’t drop the class until you pass it.”
    “What privileges his darkness with that special status?” When you are doing God’s work, He grants you status in exchange for humility (which obviously is a trait you have to work at judging by the content of my posts).

  • peter wright

    I am not doing this to be flirtatious. I have too much at stake in my life to be flirting with girls on the internet. This is done out of an appreciation of Trent’s work as a path to truth. Jaime, you just happened to be the one who wrote the review–nothing personal beyond that.

  • http://crazyjaneski.typepad.com Jaime Nichols

    Believe it or not, the question you bring up is one that also concerns me. I saw the Nine Inch Nails performance at Coachella, and though I did not review it here, I wrote about the fact that it was definitely not the lightening strike of performative meaning that his tour in 1994 was on my blog. There is definitely something lost. I see that. I just think there is also a great potential for something to be gained, and I really just disagree with you that this record is a surrender to anything as dumb as peer pressure. I think Reznor was on the verge of a stupid rock ‘n roll death and narrowly avoided turning his back catalogue into a record of weakness, while forcing us hear it all be endlessly romanticized a la Kurt Cobain on MTV by people who have no clue what it was ever about. I would rather have Trent Reznor find a new vector than die in some wasteful way that reduces his work to something it never was.

    I also disagree with your notion of subjectivity as clouding the issue. On the contrary, I think it’s a much more demanding path – and the one Reznor has always been on – that doesn’t have clear signposts. I think that if there is an absolute truth, that it’s for each person: within his own context, truth is absolute. Reznor’s raging was like buring everything down in search of anything more than that, but absolutism (and the search for it) is destined to end in failure for the same reason that the word “objectivity” means something that is, by it’s very nature, absent, as long as we have only our own subjectivity with which to process the world. Searching for it is like staring into the sun and going blind. A comparison I’m pretty sure he makes on his new record.

    Trent’s effort is the most remarkably successful attempt to BECOME truth that I have ever seen. He is a very potent artist, and I don’t believe that has changed at all. I also think that backing down from that precipice will afford him a much richer and more difficult engagement with what’s in him, but without the impending death. I think he’s still very much in process, and he will suffer, but as long as he’s doing what he must, he will find it’s potentcy, because that’s the kind of a creature he is.

    I think you just give too much privilege to Reznor’s darkness. There’s grace in him, too, and there always has been. It’s just as truthful. I don’t know what you mean about “doing God’s work”, but my ignorance of the notion that suffering is a teacher is another assumption you’d do well not to make. Maybe suffering can teach you how to adjust and eliminate it. When he says he will be “beside you in time” I think he’s making peace, and acknowledging the two sides of himself, and he out of phase hum of the music behind him is like two parts of himself that must lead parallel lives, but are inseparable. I think he acknowledges the darkness on this record – doesn’t sweep it under the rug – but that he wants to live. I’m glad his will has chosen life. I think he has more work to do.

    You sound to me like you have a box you want this to fit in, and I don’t think it quite does. Let it be what it is! It might surprise you.

  • peter wright

    You don’t seem ready to discuss the theological implications of Trent Reznor’s work. It’s okay– we all need time to be young, just don’t limit your growth by clinging to your beliefs too rigidly. Keep seeking truth!!

  • http://whatscomingtome.blogspot.com Gabriel

    Would you be flirtacious with _me_, Peter?

    I’d like that.

  • http://crazyjaneski.typepad.com Jaime Nichols

    Peter, you have no idea how old I am. My beliefs aren’t rigid, either – I am waiting and seeing. My whole experience of Trent Reznor’s work has necessitated a relaxation of my youthful rigidity, actually. I’m curious about your thoughts, but if you’ve got a specific Theological perspective, you should consider being careful of rigidity yourself.

  • Howler

    So, if I read this correctly, Peter is saying that With Teeth is about giving up the battle for God? Holy Hell.

  • AnnaWright

    I think it was about some girl he didn’t like because of her beliefs; she believed in God and he didn’t want that, she offered something more to him and he left her for someone he wanted a girl from Stuff, someone who likes to fuck, I like to look at the meaning it more of a reality in Trent Reznors life and then make a logical judgement. He’s all about the money and that’s what he aims at towards the public, a story to hit the media. His real life is far from that.

  • peter wright

    Jaime, I disagree that searching for an absolute would be a “failure”. On the contrary, if we can become intimate with God, who is without question absolute, all of our soul searching and examination of darkness becomes irrelevant, because God is guiding us and we don’t need to look for answers on our own. I’m not speaking from a theoretical perspective here, but out of experience. Further, a fondness for dark things repels the people that God has entrusted to our care.
    Trent Reznor would do well to soften his approach to examining the lives of the disenfranchised. His current approach is like a father saying to his five year old son, “Scribble on the wall again and I’ll kill you!” and then actually showing the kid the knife he intends to use.
    Is this what you wanted to know? What else can I tell you?

  • http://crazyjaneski.typepad.com Jaime Nichols

    Peter, I’ve got no idea what you are trying to say. First, you say that his giving up the extremity and darkness makes this record a negative one, and that Reznor’s clear view of darker realities is something that others should not encourage him to stop exploring, and now darkness repels the people God has entrusted to our care! I don’t understand how your metaphor of the father and his young son applies here at all. I can’t reply with anything else, because frankly, I don’t know what you’re saying.

  • Peter Wright

    Refer to comment 49.

  • http://crazyjaneski.typepad.com Jaime

    You know what? I would love to know what the hell you’re talking about, and it does interest me, but if you can’t be bothered to express yourself with clarity and you want to be condescending, then it appears that you aren’t ready to discuss the theological implications, either. For the record, I agree that there are some, but things you’re saying here are frankly contradictory, and I cannot understand what you mean.

    That is not because I’m immature or not interested, it’s because you are unclear.

  • Caleb

    Well, I think we’re getting a little too knee-deep in the arguments here, guys. Anyway, back on track with the review. Not only the best review I’ve read for this record (which I think is fantastic), but the best review I’ve read in a long time. You actually LISTENED to it. I’ve read alot of reviews of albums that do seem to lack objectivity, and even attentiveness. I’ve even seen critics add lyrics to songs that aren’t there! I don’t know if you’re a professional writer, or not, Jaimie. But this is truly fine writing. Whether one likes the record or not, your analysis of this work is to be commended. Now this is just my opinion, so no one attack me! :)

  • Jaime

    Thanks, Caleb.

  • http://www.allyourstrength.com Jon

    I wrote a review of DTS a few months after the CD was released and someone online picked it up and plastered it all over the place with his name on it.

    If this wonderful piece of honest, insightful and downright revealing wordsmithing receives the same treatment, you have my early condolences.

    As many have said, brilliant man. All I would have added (just my opinions of course) is “The Line Begins To Blur” is one of the strongest songs since “March of the Pigs” in its sonic assault, with a bassline from the nightmares of every subwoofer. Also, it’s great to see Trent ‘physically’ healthy as well. As a fitness pro, NIN freak, and someone who’s Trent’s age, I’m giddy over the fact the twig grew some arms and found himself healthy internally and externally.

    But hey…this is about serious kudos to you good sir knight. Keep it up…the world needs savvy critics!

  • David Peters

    Trent did gain sobriety which is a huge influence on the album. However, the vagueness he leaves lyrically is to open up interpretation (a similar style to U2).

    Peter, suffering and soul-searching are present in existentialims as much as your notions of an absolute God. Read Albert Camus “The Stranger” if you don’t see why a life left un-searched and thoughtfully contemplating suffering is dangerous. We find truth for ourselves, you say. Why not learn from the various sources around as, so that it might culminate in greater understanding of humanity and our own worldview.

    The album is good. It is sometimes intentionally vague to allow other interpretations and use Trent’s words in new context.

    I enjoy the review but I think the album is more about relationships: political, social, and with addiction. “Only” Trent stated was an ode to the battle with being an artist in a capitalistic landscapes that values quantity and ease of use to quality and music that challenges the listener. He brought up The Downward Spiral, which open at the same time as Soundgarden: Soundgarden sold more and yet Trent persisted and survived where other bands fell. I like the vagueness though in his lyrics which remove the intent he had and allow us to view it as anything we wish. That does promote the notion of creating our own truth and other existential themes.

  • ntg

    a great article and a great album. you have quite a way with words. pure truth about all of the material.

  • Megg

    Yes, quite a great article. I think Trent is a genius with his words, he knows how to get to his audience through his lryics.. With Teeth is an amazing album and is fairly different from all of Trent’s other music. I love it all!

  • jub

    awesome review. especially the part about ‘you know what you are?’ – having followed his career for so long, a song like that is so brutally honest and ferocioius to be almost frightening.

  • Rachel

    Good review I have to admit. I think Trent Reznor is one of the most gorgeous-looking artists of our time, he is also fantastically gifted with the talent of writing superb music. With Teeth is a fantastic album, and I hope he writes more. I love Trent Reznor he is my idol.

  • amy

    With Teeth is by far Trent’s best work. Critics who would like to disagree with this seriously need to get their head out of their asses and LISTEN!! I am such a huge fan of Trent. I relate to his music, feelings, etc. and I can only hope he will continue putting out meaningful, true lyrics….Trent–YOU ROCK!!!!!! It would be such an honor to meet you someday. Please come back to Indianapolis next year!!! Amy Indiana

  • http://houseofart.homeip.net Rich

    Critics typically produce reviews too quickly to make a good judgment. Bands like Radiohead, Tool, and NIN (and if you’re really into interpretation, Sigur Ros) produce albums that need to be absorbed and understood before they can really be judged.

    One of the things these bands have in common is an artistic meaningful approach to writing music that can be sarcastic, or can lie to the audience as a way of evoking a reaction.

    Part way through reading this review, it occured to me that trent may be mocking himself.. and maybe a large part of his audience.

    Interpret the record how you will, but if you haven’t listened enough to interpret the meaning of a piece of art, you’re just critiquing beats and melodies.. relatively meaningless with these types of bands.

    Good review. Interpretive? Sure… at least it means something.

    Even if you’re wrong and I’m right :p