Review Summary: While this stunning double album comes with its flaws, the high points and the glimpses of musical genius ensure it a worthwhile listen. However its best to listen to all of it in small doses or just let it sink in after thorough repeated listens. This th1 of 1 thought this review was well written
The huge double album by the equally huge Nine Inch Nails is a success on many levels, even though it was commercially less successful than the iconic The Downward Spiral; The Fragile was met with critical acclaim and is a solid, yet somewhat unfocused beast, being slightly inconsistant in its sprawling 104 minute running time.
The album contains two discs, named Left and Right, and both of them showcase stunning musical brilliance, and small but significant weaknesses. However, Trent Reznor himself should be commended on his efforts here, the material itself is grandiose, and the highs on this album make it worthwhile listen.
Disc 1(LEFT), is probably the more consistant of the two discs. It opens with Somewhat Damaged, a piece that sets the gloomy atmosphere and disenchanted mood of the album as a whole. Pounding synths, a steady drum beat, mutlilayered guitar lines, and Trent's penetrating voice slowly lead the piece to a satisyfing climax, acting as the perfect opener to the album. The Day The World Went Away is another epic piece, opening with a pulsating distorted guitar riff before breaking down to Trent's tormented voice and a mellow verse section. Just as you think the song begins to falter in musical intensity, the pounding guitar riff re-emerges to ignite the song again, leading to a very successful climax.
We're In This Together and No You Don't are two other brillant tracks, pounding synths and drum beats, growling guitars and as much angst as anyone can truly handle, these tracks just beg to be played at max volume while you headbang away and watch your parents stare in bewilderment. Other Notable mentions in Disc 1 are the excellent instrumentals Just Like You Imagined and La Mer. Just Like You Imagined opens with a mellow piano line and ambiguous ambience effects before the drums and the bassline offer up a cathy melodic line. From there guitars pick up the slack and lead the piece to stunning musical highs before small piano breaks and satisfying crescendos and decrescendos add to the density of the piece, making it sound absolutly epic, one of the strongest points of the entire album itself.
La Mer is a more mellow, melodic instrumental, carried mostly by a piano before bass and drums kick in. The piece itself never reaches such dramatic cliamaxes like the previous instrumental, but it serves as a refreshing break through the rest of the disc's musical intensity. Even with all these stunnning highs, small but significant flaws cause slight inconsistencies, and almost serve to break the flow of this Disc. The Great Below is almost monotonous, leading absolutly nowhere and not serving as a fitting closer to this otherwise stunning disc 1. Even Deeper is another disappointing track, sounding more like cheap filler than actual inspired material, Trent almost sounds forced rather than mysterious or menacing, and the lyrics are terribly clichéd "In a dream Im a different me, with a perfect you, we fit perfectly" (come on Trent you can do better than that!)
The rest of the tracks are passable, not extrodinary as many of the high points on this disc and not as awful as the above mentioned tracks; tracks like The Fragile and The Wretched serve as middle ground. However, even through this Disc's flaws, its better tracks carry it to greatness, offering a thoroughly enjoyable listen.
Disc 2(RIGHT) is plagued by more significant inconsistancies but the brighter tracks still shine through, saving the disc from being a total failure in the face of the far superior Disc 1. Into The Void is a catchy little pop tune, a distorted bassline providing an almost funky feel, before Trent and distorted guitars carry the song to a fulfilling climax full of distorted noise and pounding synths. Please is another stand out track, opening immediately with a solid drum beat and heavily distorted guitars and synths. Trent carries the piece with menacing prowess, screaming, whispering and belting his lyrics while distorted guitars growl with intensity.
Star***er's Inc. is another strong track, with an upbeat tempo, a bouncing bassline, and an all guitar assualt. The lyrics are also amusing, with Trent apparantly taking the complete PISS out of Marilyn Manson, with lyrics mocking Manson's songs The Beautiful People(Now I belong I'm one of the beautiful ones) and various others ( my god pouts on the cover of the magazines) while attempting to mock Manson himself (you're so vain, I bet you think this song is about you, don't you).
However this Disc has its penetrating flaws, damaging its flow and its musical barrage. Tracks like The Big Come Down and Underneath It All get lost in fuzzy distorted synths, completely uninspired lyrics, generally boring melodic hooks and shallow disorted riffs. Where Is Everybody is absolutely atrocious, a boring melody, unsatisfying climax and some of Trent's worst lyrics ( Where is everybody? trying and dying, lying, defying, denying,crying and dying,... pleading and needing and bleeding and breeding.....WTF!?!)
Again just like in Disc 1, the rest of the tracks sit in a sort of middle ground, a musical limbo, not quite reaching astounding highs, and not quite hitting such painful lows as the above mentioned track.
Overall, even though both disc 1 and 2 have a few flaws, and are somewhat inconsistant in delivering solid track after solid track, both of them are a fairly enjoyable listen. The best songs on this massive double album are nothing short of epic, bringing such satisyfing highs that the lows seem to lie in shadow, almost dead in a burnt heap, while Trent leads his full frontal musical assault to victory. However, this album spans 104 mintues, it's a huge, exhausting listen. In order to fully enjoy this huge collection of songs its best to listen to it in small doses or just let it all sink in after many repeated listens. After its all sunk in, its brilliance shines through, and its better tracks stand out enough to provide a fulfilling listen overall.