The man who turned me on to music has finally eroded my five year vigil with the release of the double-disc set, "The Fragile". That man being Trent Reznor, is the musical and creative genious behind Nine Inch Nails' overwhelming success in this decade alone. It seems just yesterday that his first full album, "Pretty Hate Machine" took so many listeners too a new level of alternative/electrica/rock music. With that album, I too was born a fan, not just of Nine Inch Nails, but it opened my eyes to music in an entirely new way. And I haven't since looked back.
"The Fragile" is yet another demonstration of Trent Reznor astounding ability as a producer/ writer/ instrumentalist/ artist. This man does it all. He is able to interweave melodic string lines with guitar riffs, synths and lyrics, while tossing in an edge, loop or instrument that is characteristic of Reznor's ability to seize the next level. He is indeed an artist of an elite class, a breed that is so rare in this industry driven musical world. When artists like Ol Dirty bastard can produce an album in a day, Reznor spent two experimental years trying to give his fans a taste of the elusive next level. He has succeeded once again. This album doesn't eclipse "Pretty Hate Machine", but it falls furlongs from disappointing.
"The Fragile", dubbed "The Decade's Most Anticipated Album" by Alternative Press, was for Reznor a chance to play with his reputation. Instead of perfecting each track, he just let the flow embrace him yielding whatever it might. Indeed, its yield is like that of an apple orchard in an Indian summer – fruitful.
The double disc set takes a twist as its 23 tracks are divided into the Left Disc and Right Disc. The Left Disc permeates of classic Nine Inch Nails style most reminiscent of his "Broken EP". Whereas the Right Disc, like a sunrise, seems to bring forth new light. At the risk of putting my foot in hot water, I felt as though the Right Disc stimulated my hip hop senses, with its more defined beats. It in no way resembles hip hop, at times yields a new feel.
"Starf***ers" is amazing. A great beat with vocal rippling leading up to the in your face, guitar ridden heavy metallish chorus. It's bound to get your head bobbing. "Underneath It All" has a background that sounds like a message from outer space, leading up to a crechendo, but stops abruptly ending with an eerie vocal distortion. "Where Is Everybody" was the first song that I skipped back to take a second listen. A deep bass-synch combo, a catchy chorus of classic Nine Inch Nails proportions, then an oriental-type sound returns combined with deep bass. The album's first single, "We're In This Together", features a slow-laid back beat that culminates in an up-pace string-laden chorus. This single will satiate the long wait of NIN's fans' for a video. "Somewhat Damaged" places a steady beat with the every 9th beat replaced by anticipation. This anticipation ultimately leads up to musical stretch that I look forward to everytime I take a listen. Take a listen, you'll recognize it. Vocal overdamping also plays a great effect, giving virtual surround sound.
"The Fragile" is an amazing double album. As always, Trent Reznor is able to produce something special. This album is just yet another artifact in the career of this legend-in-the-making. If you're a Nine Inch Nails fan and enjoy his prior work, then I'll assume you already have this album. If not, then get it. If you have yet to experience Trent Reznor's group known as Nine Inch Nails, and if you enjoy alternative or metal, then you really might want to give "The Fragile" a try. This album is awful close to a 5 for any Nine Inch Nails fan, but for the sake of the others:
(Originally posted on HipHopCanada.com)
This review was written October 5, 1999