Nine Inch Nails
The Fragile


4.5
superb

Review

by David Ham USER (3 Reviews)
February 9th, 2008 | 18 replies | 3,909 views


Release Date: 1999 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A mixed bag really. The Left disc sports a fuller sound and a high standard while the Right disc is, sonically, more challenging and not to everyone’s taste. You choose.

2 of 2 thought this review was well written

After Nine Inch Nails broke into the mainstream in 1994 with the masterpiece that is The Downward Spiral, Trent Reznor took some time off. Most artists tour for a bit then get to work on a follow-up but the Nine Inch Nails front man obviously had other intentions. Yes, he toured with David Bowie but that could hardly occupy five years. So what did he do? He did a bit a remixing here and there, covered some Joy Division songs and composed a few new ones.

Anyways, now that we’ve established that he did little-to-nothing after ‘95, I’ll move onto the album itself. On the outside it looks like something for all fans to sink their teeth into; a cornucopia of material to savour for the next 6 years (until With Teeth). Listening to it one thing becomes clear: this is a much more dense affair than The Downward Spiral. Not only that but it’s littered with layers of strange sounds which, when strung together with expert production, form the hit-or-miss songs that The Fragile yields.

The album itself comprises of two discs. The Left and Right, as they are labelled. The Left has more build and it’s songs stand on their own. Unfortunately these songs benefit from single listens, as this disc is littered with inconsistencies. The songs don’t play on a certain style, they jump back and forth between them.

Left aptly starts off with Somewhat Damaged, a slow, brooding song which constructs more emotion and flair with every layer added. And, oh yes, this song has layers. The Day The World Went Away blasts the listener with a harsh blast of distorted guitar while near the end there’s a sort of hopeless chant reminiscent of nostalgia and deep depression. Continuing is the double strike of The Frail and The Wretched: a beautiful piano track that leads into something that feel sinister and evil, vengeful even. We’re In This Together is a solid epic. Blistering shreds of static and distortion outline the verses and show their full intensity in the chorus. All aided by a irresistible hard drum beat. The latter of the track pushing in the piano and some whispering vocals to milk the emotional element. The Fragile finishes off the first quarter of the album with a nostalgic look at a self-destructive relationship, complete with a nostalgic medley mid-way. This is where the album first stutters.

Up until now everything has been brilliantly structured and composed albeit slightly inconsistent. Just Like You Imagined is a good instrumental but one cannot help to wonder if the track was played around with a bit more and angry vocals were added. Even Deeper brings that record back into focus with its dark beats and funky rifts until the stability is shattered by the hopelessly unnecessary Pilgrimage, a filler through and through. And as hard as it tries No, You Don’t can’t save the atmosphere. This is mainly because of the atmosphere set by the beginning of the disc doesn’t deal with these issues up front. Depression, revenge, loss, sadness and disgust have all been dealt with but within the moniker of a fragile, cowardly soul. This unleashes aggression that seems to have been looming within a driving uncontrolled blast. The disc then quiets down for it’s finale with a quiet ballad laced with a seductive French serenade on La Mer. The final song, The Great Below, is a reflective song that mirrors all of the albums atmosphere and brings it to a close.

While the songs on the first disc work perfectly on their own the Right disc works better as a whole. It’s more atmospheric and its hard to listen to the individual song on it’s own. The Way Out Is Through is again, a slow building instrumental that starts off. Not as effective as Somewhat Damaged though. Into The Void is a somewhat lifeless track that grinds along at an average pace; not really living up to the first disc already. Where Is Everybody? is a bit annoying at times with its repetitive bridge and chorus but still contains good lyrics. The Mark Is Made regains some of the ground lost by the previous tracks as it has a good, simple guitar rift that kicks in a few minutes into the song. Please furthers what The Mark Is Made has done and is quite an enjoyable song, again flirting with aggression but not quite totally succumbing to it as No, You Don’t did. Star***ers Inc. seems to blast Marilyn Manson with it’s boring lyrics but is (sort of) made by the chorus and semi-hip hop beats. The aptly named Complication reflects what the first half of the Right disc has presented and acts as a sort of interlude. At this point the Right disc isn’t looking too good but just remember that it’s all about atmosphere here, not sound.

I’m Looking Forward To Joining You, Finally loops some great lyrics and a basic musical scope, adding an irresistible drums beat near the end. The Big Come Down is illustrated with difficult jarring industrial clonks and clangs but it seems to work all the same. The end of the album has some problems. Underneath It All is a disposable track that doesn’t fit lyrically, sonically or musically. The beat really is the killer. In simple terms, it’s too fast. But the disc does close with the so-so Ripe (With Decay). This nifty little instrumental closes the album finally and sort of paints a picture of descent into self-destruction, hate and self-loathing.

So what does all of this have to tell us. Well, to sum up: Left is more accessable in format and sound while Right gives off more atmosphere but is very iffy at times and stutters in a few places. Production here is top notch and the wealth of sound that Mr. Reznor shows will no doubt place him as one of the great musicians of our time. But, this will drive some listeners away and is a very complex and taxing listen. In the end this is a masterpiece, flawed as it is, it works but the final feeling isn’t one of satisfaction. But, is satisfaction what you really want from a Nine Inch Nails album?

Best Songs

The Day The World Went Away
The Great Below
The Mark Has Been Made
Please

Worst Songs

Pilgrimage
The Way Out Is Through
Underneath It All

Final rating: 4.5 out of 5


user ratings (1853)
Chart.
4.3
superb
other reviews of this album
1 of
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    It's funny how everything you swore would never change is different now...

    thebigcumdown (4)
    Album that will keep you thirsty for more....

    TAnin (4.5)
    Would've been great as a single album. Second half needs some trimming, or just cutting al...

    Alex Beebe (1.5)
    “It didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to, it didn’t turn out the way you wanted ...

  • megalomanic (5)
    Trent Reznor's masterpiece, wrongfully overshadowed by The Downward Spiral....

    Killerhit (4.5)
    And the sea will come to kiss me, for I am going home....

    Derek Marchewka (4.5)
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    Edmund Blackadder (4)
    Trent Reznor creates a gorgeous, genre spanning album....

  • howdy123 (5)
    This album overall is one of Trent’s best works, musically, lyrically, and vocally. He ...

    Porter W. Richards (5)
    The most varied, atmospheric, and wild Nine Inch Nails release to date creates one of the ...

    ImAround (4)
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    Killtacular (4)
    ...

  • OrbDragon (4.5)
    ...


Comments:Add a Comment 
XMII
February 9th 2008



176 Comments


good.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
February 9th 2008



15693 Comments


Downward Spiral was disappointing to me, so I don't think I'll be looking into this. Trent has some good songs then he goes and fucks it all up.

Digging: Nmesh - Dream Sequins [AMDISCS]

DWittisarockstar
February 9th 2008



1501 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

3 of my 4 favorite songs from this album are on your worst songs list, and 2 of my least favorite are on your best songs list. The Great Below rules though, so it evens out.

Good review.

EyesWideShut
February 9th 2008



3027 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Trent created an album that demands close listening as its an all out sonic assualt on your ears and senses. Great review but "The way out is through" is one of my favs off the album.

combustion07
February 9th 2008



5303 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I just got this in the mail with downward spiral I'm checking it out now.

MoonlightBleeding
February 9th 2008



452 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Wow, I totally disagree with most of what you said, and I love this album.

Pilgrimage keeps the album going, full out angry rock. No, You Don't is like being hit in the face with a sledgehammer. I honestly think Left works better as a whole than Right as well.

Secondly, The Way Out is Through/Into the Void are badass tracks, The Way Out is Through's atmospheric introduction and explosion is incredible, and Into the Void's funky beat and electronic breakdown is freaking intense. Lastly, you neglected Please, which is one of the album's best.

The album, though is magnificient, and I love how it's so hard to understand for new NIN listeners.This Message Edited On 02.09.08

combustion07
February 9th 2008



5303 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'm listening to the left disc right now I'm finding it to be good.

lateoctober
February 9th 2008



171 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This album got me through some hard times. I pretty much agree with your rating, inconsistent but its best moments do make it something of a flawed masterpiece. However I found your review a bit too opinionated on the track listing, you left a lot to the imagination by using some nifty word's when describing the albums sound but you didn't go into detail about how that sound is created. You could have also made this review a little bit leaner. I'd rather see some facts or evidence to make your opinion's stand out from the other 5 reviews on here. However given such creative criticism, I too am a nooby here, so I'm sorry if I sound harsh and hypocritical. I just can't give this a thumbs up, its not a thumbs down though either.This Message Edited On 02.09.08This Message Edited On 02.09.08This Message Edited On 02.09.08

DWittisarockstar
February 9th 2008



1501 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This changed to a five for me. Just now.

combustion07
February 9th 2008



5303 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This was great I'm thinking of raising it to a 5, going to listen to downward spiral now.

DWittisarockstar
February 9th 2008



1501 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Downward Spiral is better. Tracks 3-8 on it are pure excellence, and Track 7(The Becoming) is my favorite song ever, right behind Kontrollverlust by OOMPH!

industrialjunkie92
February 10th 2008



167 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"I'd rather see some facts or evidence to make your opinion's stand out from the other 5 reviews on here. However given such creative criticism, I too am a nooby here, so I'm sorry if I sound harsh and hypocritical. I just can't give this a thumbs up, its not a thumbs down though either"

I took a shot in the dark. It's my first real review after my terrible With Teeth review. I will try to improve this after I get going with my other reviews. I'm reviewing The Downward Spiral now.

Confessed2005
February 10th 2008



3314 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This is better than The Downward Spiral in some respects.

MoonlightBleeding
February 10th 2008



452 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This is better than TDS, but not by much.

Chewie
February 27th 2008



4531 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

the downward spiral is more focused as an album, there isn't a bad track. This is slightly bigger concept but lacks alot of things to make it classic.

PayneTiger777
February 17th 2009



4364 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This album makes me a happy mofo. The left disc is superior to the right, but they are both great.

BassDemon333
September 1st 2009



3291 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Left Disc is much more consistent and interesting to listen to than the Right Disc...at least so far for me. Right is more challenging to the listener though i'd have to say. This is a good review btw.

Digging: Chevelle - La Gargola

Scenegrind
June 25th 2012



95 Comments


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