Nine Inch Nails - "The Fragile"
By Dan Century
After a string of mediocre releases from
the "big boys" of industrial music (Ministry, Skinny Puppy, KMFDM) I didn't
expect much from Trent Reznor's pop-industrial Nine Inch Nails, especially
after five years of wasting his creative energy on producing soundtracks and
Marilyn Manson. Even the first singles off The Fragile, The Day It
All Went Away and Starfuckers, failed to give me hope for a quality
album. Fortunately, my intuition was wrong - The Fragile is, in many
ways, a remarkable album.
Unexpectedly, Nine Inch Nails has grown
again. The influence of hip-hop is evident: from the mixing talents of Dr. Dre,
ultra-deep bass throughout, and the rap vocal delivery of Where Is
Everybody. This should come as no surprise as most musical innovation of
the past 5 years, at least in terms of production, has come from rap. There is
still plenty of rock and rage to sink your fangs into: lots of guitar riffs and
effects, Kiss samples and ear thrashing beats. Acoustic and electronic textures
are woven throughout, often subtle and unexpected. This is definitely Trent's
most graceful and mature work to date. Listen to this album on a good stereo -
this is a superbly mixed album with great attention to all frequencies of the
Trent is furious, confused, disgusted,
disappointed, depressed, desperate - you name it. He's everything but happy. In
the midst of all this negative emotion there is plenty of hope too: hope for
salvation and hope to help others. Trent balances the harsher, furious moments
with delicate piano melodies and gentle, organic instrumentation. To say this
album was manic in nature would be extreme - it's more like an acknowledgement
of reality, where the strong must become weak, flowers grow amongst stone and
dark shares the same page as light.
The Fragile is a double CD, adding
up to 104 minutes of music. The cover features a half of the NIN symbol on a
depressing gray background occluded by a super-close-up image of a red flower -
a juxtaposing of harsh and gentle imagery and precluding themes found in the
songs. At least one friend asked: "Is that really the artwork?" It sure is -
it's not a printing mistake. One downside to the packaging is the song titles
aren't on the disks or the back of the CD case, which is real annoying for DJs,
and just about everyone else. The complete lyrics are included, which is always
The Fragile could have been an excellent single disk album,
but instead we get a good double album, why? Aside from the sum five years
worth of songwriting, there are many instrumentals, a few poor edits and
different song lengths on CD, tape and record, which means NIN fanatics will
have to purchase all three.
From the LEFT CD
Sure, who isn't damaged? Trent
has made a career out of "damage." There is so much anger in this song - Trent
knows how to build tension and really let it fly. I want to punch holes in
walls when I hear this song. Arrrggh! "Too fucked up to care anymore!" That's a
no really, it is. An excellent start for the album.
The Day the World Went Away
Sounds like half a
song, or like you turned on the radio in the middle of a song. I want the rest
of the song!
A gentle melody played on piano. Like
raindrops bouncing on a flower petal, or blood drops in a wash basin.
We're In This Together Now
Ugly noise and bare
bones beats. A powerful chorus: "You and me, we're in this together now, none
of them can stop us now, we will make it through somehow." A straight-edge
unity anthem? I hope not.
The best lyrics on the album. Another
powerful anthem: "I won't let you fall apart." Instead of just moaning about
his own problems, Trent is trying to help others.
Dr. Dre on the mixing boards?
Impressive and unexpected. Creeping Compton beats
guitar and noise cut the
groove like high-beams. "Just how damaged have I become." Lots of despair, but
cries for help too
a good lyric is better than a trip to the emergency
room any day.
A reminder that Trent does know how to
play a piano. Is this Jazz? Maybe. Great live drums thanks to the best sticks
in the biz: Bill Rieflin.
From the RIGHT CD
Into the Void
Best song on the album. I could
listen to it five times a day. Proof that he's been listening to a lot of
R&B and rap. I can visualize Foxy Brown rapping over the same beat. Almost
"Timbaland" beats and distorted keys in place of a bass. A masterpiece of
Where Is Everybody?
I don't know either, but who
are we talking about? All the people who used Trent over the past five years?
Probably. Trent flows effortlessly from rap blanc to rock dirge, served on a
platter of crunchy hip-pop beats.
Trent hates Courtney Love and Marilyn
Manson. Hey, Trent, join the club. Of course, he has plenty of reasons to be
angry: Courtney belittled his manhood in the press, and Brian used him like a
dog. Here's proof that Trent can still thrash-rock out, and sample Kiss.
Wild techno electronics, a
double-speed rap beat and rock guitar. Too bad it's only an instrumental. A
great song to listen too while speeding through the streets of Manhattan -
living life like a video game.
Let's face it: if you're a fan of Nine Inch Nails you're
going to buy this album with or without my recommendation. This is undoubtedly
a new chapter in the Nine Inch Nails saga and unlike other sequels, this was
worth waiting for. Don't expect pop hits like Down In It or Closer. Do expect a
more subtle, imperfect, mature album. Once you get beyond the new sounds,
softer tones and overabundant instrumentals, I believe you'll find an album
that deserves your time and attention.
Click to Buy!