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Back then, however, he was "too fucked up to care anymore" (on Fragile's "Somewhat Damaged") or lamenting that "it's too late for me" (from that album's title track) to fix his problems. But now, Reznor sounds like someone who's just achieved conscious clarity after awaking from a long nap -- someone suddenly thrust from blindness to sight, reverse-Oedipus style -- and is really pissed off at what he sees.
Either metaphorically or abstractly, NIN covers the same topics as most pop artists -- love, sex, obsession and pain. But instead of wrapping his songs in coy phrases or veiled obsessions, Reznor will just come right out and say, "I want to fuck you like an animal" or "I hurt myself today." He's nothing if not blunt.
Confusing the singer with the content of his songs is always a dangerous proposition. But there's definite fascination in studying someone who is drawn to the brink of the bottomless abyss but avoids freefalling into nothingness every time. There's always the nagging thought, "Is this the time he actually jumps?" -- and a silent cheer when he returns every time, buoyed by danger.
Kramer's article notes that "superficially, mental pain resembles passion, strong emotion that stands in opposition to the corrupt world." Reznor's passion is mental pain -- but With Teeth proves he's nearly perfected the art of sublimation. -- Annie Zalenski