Over 20 years after its initial release, Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile ended up being a revisionist massive critical success. That’s not to say that its initial reviews in 1999 weren’t fairly positive – they definitely were – but its double album length and huge runtime were overwhelming for many listeners. While it debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, it suffered a huge drop in sales going all the way down to #16 at the time, making for the then-biggest drop after a #1 album.
Six years passed after The Fragile was released until Trent Reznor released a new NIN album. Part of it was due to everything from writer’s block to addiction, but the release of With Teeth was intentionally pared down in length and runtime. Of course, With Teeth is still a fairly long album, but it’s still less than an hour. Pretty palatable for a newcomer to Nine Inch Nails, with songs like huge hit “The Hand That Feeds” and “Only” having traditional pop-oriented song structures.
The album is less “heavy” than previous material, owing to its more electronic and ambient focuses, but also more percussion. With Teeth proved to be a big success upon its release, though. Dave Grohl even drummed on the album for a handful of tracks, but the real treat is the heavier, dense electronic songs here. Songs like “The Line Begins To Blur” have an obvious pulse and tension to them, while “Beside You In Time” has a more cinematic quality that brings to mind Reznor’s later work on some big-time film scores.
With Teeth was an important NIN album because after its release, Trent Reznor started releasing new material faster. Its follow up, 2007’s Year Zero, was a heralded concept album that was less commercial in tone, yet was innovative in its overall approach to marketing and release. It really is nearly the perfect album to introduce to new NIN fans that might be overwhelmed by intensive double albums or claustrophobic soundscapes.