The Fragile Album reviews.
Release Date: 09.21.99
Record label: Nothing
The Untimely Demise of Industrial Music
by: bill aicher
1989: The world was introduced to an individual that would have one of the biggest influences on popular music. Trent Reznor, the mastermind behind Nine Inch Nails, released Pretty Hate Machine. This masterpiece of an album caused quite a stir in the music industry with its innovative mix of techno beats, industrial sounds, and angst-ridden lyrics.
1994: Nine Inch Nails returned with their second full-length album, The Downward Spiral. (Sure, there were some EPs and singles in between). With this album Nine Inch Nails gained the majority of their pop status. Who would have known that a song with a chorus including "I want to fuck you like an animal" would have been such a huge radio hit? The album was a step in a new direction for Reznor, incorporating more industrial loops and an easily notable increase in the use of rock guitar sound.
It was through these two albums that the popular audience became aware of industrial music. Sure, neither of these albums were purely "industrial," but they did fuel the industrial music industry as well as bring over a great deal of listeners. Reznor was hailed by many as a god of industrial music.
1999: Welcome "The Day the World Went Away." Literally. NIN's immensely anticipated third studio album, The Fragile, has finally been released. Halo Fourteen seemed like it would never happen, after numerous release push-backs and other delays, it seemed possible that the world was being led on by publicists. However, even though the album is now out, it is definitely a step in a new direction for Reznor.
The Fragile has been called an epic masterpiece, Trent Reznor's version of The Wall, and a slew of other things. I am not going to call it anything other than what it is.
Industrial music has died as a popular genre due to this album. Little has been said or done in the pop music scene that is industrial, and NIN would have been the ones to revive it. With this album it is done. Caput. See ya later! Reznor has moved on once again, and once again he has proven that he is a musical genius.
This double disc album is an album in every sense of the word. The songs flow from one to the next, making this an album that should be listened to in one sitting in order to appreciate it to the fullest extent. The album's opener, "Somewhat Damaged" openly welcomes previous fans into the album. It is one of the few tracks on the album that most closely resembles previous NIN material (specifically The Downward Spiral). The hard edged guitars are there. The industrial loops kick the listener in the ass. The drum beats hit hard and let go just enough to keep building the song until it reaches climax. Reznor's lyrics are still those of a depressed loner, deprived of all feelings... or so it seems. For in the middle of the song he laments "fuck the rest and stab it dead" and "too fucked up to care anymore." Yet, at the end of the song we see he actually may care with "would always say we'll make it through then my head fell apart / and where were you?' The song ends with the straightforward question "Where the fuck were you?" From this song we can tell we are set for a somewhat different feel from Reznor. He is still not a happy man, but maybe he is looking at things a little differently.
The rest of the album follows suit lyrically, with lamentations on the downsides of life accompanied by random cries for help contrasted with spiteful refusals of assistance. This is the part of the album where Reznor stays the most true to his roots. As previously stated, he is still not a happy man.
The most noticeable changes on the album are the musical ones. Many songs still sound like The Downward Spiral, but a lot has changed as well. Songs are much more melodic, such as "The Wretched," where the chorus matches the beat laid down by the drum track. What is perhaps the most innovative additions to this album, as compared to earlier works, is the incorporations of purely instrumental tracks; which this album gives a generous helping of. Some critics have complained about these, but they are quite possibly the most intricate parts of the album. Instrumentals such as "la mer" incorporate a simple piano melody which builds up to a powerful climax that shows off the pure musical genius Reznor possesses... and who could forget "Pilgrimage" - the chanting by the buddha boys choir accompanied by the marching percussion make this one of the most haunting tracks on the album.
Despite all the generous comments I have given this album, it is not without its shortcomings. Fans of earlier albums may be a little disappointed by the lighter, more emotional side of Reznor portrayed on this album. Another problem lies in the fact that the songs begin to sound the same as the album goes on. This may be due in part to the flow between songs, which is not in itself a bad thing (actually this is a good thing). However, it doesn't change the fact that the songs start to sound alike. The last complaint is the length. It is an excellent double disc set, but it seems like the album was made to be listened to straight through in order to get the most out of it. This is simply not feasible for most people, there is just too much material. None of it is glaringly bad or out of place, but a few more cuts to make it a single disc, and NIN would have released a contender for album of the year.
This is by far Reznor's crowning achievement, as it should be for the amount of time and care he put into making it. The Fragile is well worth the wait since The Downward Spiral, the listener will be gratified upon listening to this. The lyrics are still depressing, which, as any NIN fan can tell you, is one of the best parts. And as amazing as it may sound, Reznor's musical talent shown here towers over his previous work.