I can still remember the first time I heard With Teeth because I made it to one of the listening parties held before the album came out. It seems kind of silly today that we hopped in the car and drove 90 miles to listen to a record at a concert venue, but after the six year wait since The Fragile and the fact that there really wasn’t much else to do it makes perfect sense. It doesn’t seem like doing that kind of promotion would be successful now that we have Pandora, Spotify, Last FM and who knows how many other venues for artists to get their music out there, but if there was another chance today I’d probably go. It’s fun to get out and be around like minded people with similar tastes in music.
The other thing I’ve taken away from that listening party is the first time I heard “All The Love In The World.” It’s a quiet track at the beginning; mostly just bass and turntables. But when the line “No one’s heard a single word I’ve said” came on I had to laugh because it was the first line I was able to make out. Of course, the song picks up speed with percussion, guitars and layered, double tracked vocals, but even a decade later I still remember that.
If you ask me, this is the last really good Nine Inch Nails album. Every other song on it is a masterpiece and the ones in between aren’t chopped liver either. “You Know What You Are?” features some of the patented Reznor rage with him screaming “Don’t you fucking know what you are?” The first single, “The Hand That Feeds,” was the first time I’d heard NIN take on outside problems instead of the crippling depression and self loathing that characterized the first three albums.
My favorite track is definitely “Everyday Is Exactly The Same.” I guess something about the song really appealed to me (and still does) as a lower-middle-class drone tirelessly plugging away 40 hours a week. The awesome bass line is another major draw. I can’t believe I hadn’t seen the video before embedding it in this post, but I suppose the fact that it is really dull and features a subquality mix of the song explains my missing it. “Only” is a synthy pseudo-rap with some insane drums and a singalong chorus. I’m sure the David Fincher directed video didn’t hurt it’s popularity.
I still like all of the other tunes on the album, but these 4 have always been my favorites. Probably because they’re more upbeat and rocking than some of the other songs. The best thing about With Teeth as opposed to other NIN albums is that with Dave Grohl’s involvement and the copious use of guitar and bass it sounds more like a real band. I don’t mean to suggest that masterpieces such as Broken or The Downward Spiral were made by a pretend band, but With Teeth sounds a lot less like it was created by one guy in a little studio.
Another favorite aspect of the album is when the songs reference back to earlier works. “Only” features the lyrics “Well the tiniest little dot caught my eye…” echoing a similar line in Pretty Hate Machine‘s “Down In It.” “Sunspots” has Reznor saying “nothing can stop me now” from The Downward Spiral.
I’m still up in the air as to whether “Right Where It Belongs” is a better album closer than “Hurt.” I suppose it would be best to say they were both perfect closers for their respective albums. “Right Where It Belongs” is definitely in my top 5 NIN’s songs. Something about Trent Reznor at a keyboard with a simple melody and a simple lyric is better to me than all of the bells and whistles (and arranging, performance, production, engineering, 5.1 surround mix, sound design, all instrumentals & instrumentation) all over the rest of the album.
Maybe there are so many great closers to NIN albums because Reznor knows that in the end – it’s all about the song.