CDnow

October 1999

The Fragile

To understand the difference between Trent Reznor (who is effectively Nine Inch Nails) and his "peers," you need only look at the album title for this behemoth two-CD set (which clocks in at over 102 minutes in total). How many rock stars of today would comprehend the irony of naming this savage sonic assault The Fragile? Reznor not only gets the juxtaposition between the two, he recognizes that often times the layers separating destruction and beauty are not as thick as people would like to believe.

Take, for example, the Carpenters-meets-Revolting Cocks "We're in This Together," in which Reznor sings, "The farther I fall I'm beside you/As lost as I get I will find you/The deeper the wound I'm inside you/For ever and ever I am a part of." Lyrically, The Fragile revisits much of the same ideas of betrayal and darkness as The Downward Spiral (with words such as decay, flesh, and numb appearing often), though there is one passage in particular that is likely to arouse curiosity.

In "Where is Everybody?" Reznor shouts, "God damn I am so tired of pretending/Of wishing I was ending/When all I'm really doing is trying to hide/And keep it inside/And fill it with lies/Open my eyes?/Maybe I wish I could try." Autobiographical? Perhaps, though only Reznor can answer that.

While there isn't much difference between the two discs from a lyrical context, they are broken down a bit more musically. With disc one (the "left" one) staying to the more tried and true, bombastic NIN overload, laden with heavy guitars and pulsating drum machines. The "right" disc (labeled as such because of the way the packaging unfolds) is a little more beat-heavy (this is very much a relative term, compared not to electronic music, but previous NIN stuff).

It's hard to pick highlights, as The Fragile is very much a record meant to be listened to in one sitting. Although, the aforementioned "We're in This Together," the relatively subdued "The Great Below," on which Reznor's vocals sound very much as they did on "Hurt," and "Underneath it All" stand out.

Like seemingly all recent musical visionaries, Reznor has had to deal with being compared to his many disciples (Marilyn Manson and Filter among them). However, as The Fragile proves, there is no comparison. While they, and their peers, strive for fame and fleeting commercial success, Reznor seems to be looking within himself. And while the results aren't always pretty, they are always honest.

Steve Baltin

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Nine Inch Nails
Nine Inch Nails
This article is provided courtesy Keith Duemling and Tracy Thompson from the collection previously located at SUS.