Trent Reznor always was a perfectionist, laboring over his final mixes with a fine-tooth comb, a belabored process that inevitably led to long gaps between albums. About five years a piece, actually, a wait that was sustainable between his 1989 debut, Pretty Hate Machine, and his 1994 breakthrough, The Downward Spiral; a wait, considering the expectations, that was understandable between that record and its 1999 sequel, The Fragile; yet it was a wait that was a little bewildering and frustrating between that record and its long-gestating follow-up, With Teeth. The Fragile was a grandiose, indulgent double album, dense enough to alienate fairweather fans while making advocates of those with enough time, patience, and fanaticism to listen to it repeatedly until it all made sense. It may not have pleased everybody, but it seemed like a record that necessitated half a decade to construct, and arrived with an appropriate sense of drama. That's not the case with With Teeth, which appeared in the spring of 2005 with the requisite deluge of press but without the sense of breathless anticipation that greeted The Fragile. Part of that was changing times — fans who were 25 in 1999 were now 30 and weren't following pop music as closely — but it's also true that the double-disc set whittled his audience down to its core, diminishing Nine Inch Nails' stature somewhat. They still had their cult and still won accolades from those convinced that artists who were important in 1995 were still important in 2005, but NIN seems not only out of step but diminished in 2005. Sure, Rick Rubin had Johnny Cash sing "Hurt," but Reznor's recordings seemed to have less impact on modern music than ever. His soundalikes vanished, his long-abandoned protégé Marilyn Manson turned the corner from self-parody to college lecturer, his romanticized goth morphed into Hot Topic stores and Evanescence. Not that any of this mattered one bit to Reznor. Instead of grabbing the gold ring when he had a chance in 1995, he squirreled himself away in his New Orleans house, recording obsessively, and according to some interviews conducted around the release of With Teeth, succumbing to alcohol addiction. He consciously turned away from stardom, along with anything happening in contemporary pop, so he could tinker in the studio. That lead to the obsessive, insular The Fragile, and that same impulse drives the sleek, streamlined, diamond-hard With Teeth.