Nine Inch Nails
The Fragile


4.0
excellent

Review

by Killtacular USER (34 Reviews)
September 25th, 2005 | 19 replies


Release Date: 1999 | Tracklist


What would you do if you've single-handedly made one of the greatest industrial albums ever? If you're Trent Reznor, you barely eat, go on a drug binge, and record a double album. The Fragile is the result of this, and the five year gap between The Downward Spiral and 1999, when he released this beast of a record. Contained inside are two discs filled with dark, brooding music. Within hide some of Reznor's finest moments, from angry shout-fests in traditional industrial fashion, to short, piano ballads far from most anything he'd done previously. Much like Roger Waters poured himself into The Wall, Trent pours his pent up aggression, alienation, and sometimes depression into this sprawling work. Like Floyd's double-disc classic, the sequencing here was done by Bob Ezrin, who was credited with "Final continuity and flow."

Flow it does, as one seething piece of music transfers smoothly to the next, and proceeds to add layer upon layer of tracks until it feels as though you're going to smother in a heavy pile of distorted guitars, pounding drums, and angst ridden vocals. The 'Left' disc kicks off with Somewhat Damaged and starts with one instrument, then builds upon it until it takes your fingers and toes to count them all. It's quite a lovely process, if I do say so myself. Reznor then graces the track with his vocals, which start out soft and soothing, and then grow into a fire-spitting delivery that would make nu-metal screamers jealous. "Too fucked up to care anymore!!" makes complete sense, as this is him just letting go, uncaring of what comes of it. The Wretched pulses and pounds away with some rather unhappy sounding piano and distorted percussion. Lyrics are once again delivered in the Reznor way, loudly and oozing rancor. The 'Right' disc opens with The Way Out is Through, which starts out near silent, and over the course of about half the song, slowly grows into a thrashing beast. The ending brings "fragile" vocals, as the song dies down with some gentle keys.

Some truely wonderful moments come when Trent just shuts up and lets the music do the talking. The instrumentals here are all well composed and near equally enjoyable. The Frail is a short, gentle piano piece, that serves as both a great standalone track and intro into The Wretched. Just like You Imagined starts out with some piano, as well, but soon goes into pounding percussion and haunting whispers, before exploding into distorted strings and screeching guitar. There's a little break in the middle with some more key-twiddling, which is short and sweet. Then it goes right back to industrial mode, with it's grating guitar and ever changing riffs. It ends just as gently as it began, as some piano takes it out. Pilgrimage is more than likely the weakest member here. It sounds like a rally of some sort, Nazi or otherwise. It's very noisy, with riffs distorted and twisted like none other. The Mark has been Made is one of the best instrumentals not only here, but in all of Reznor's career. The easiest way to describe it is like an acid trip in the middle of the desert. It's quite a fitting description, I must say. It starts off slow, as you ingest the drug, and slowly builds up as it starts to take effect. Once it's fully registered in your bloodstream, it pounds away as guitars tweek all around you. Then it gets heavier and more distorted, as you're not sure what's going on. After it's peak, it starts dying down and you stop thinking those unicorns are after you. Complication sounds more like intelligent dance music than anything, with it's speedy tempo and thumping bass. Ripe (With Decay) is greatly similar to A Warm Place, in that it's highly ambient. This is a very dark sort of ambience, unlike said song, and very brooding. Several strings come together and weave in and out as it retains it's dark sound. A bit of soothing vocals from Trent mark the near end, and some strummed guitar.

The Fragile is home to some of NIN's greatest songs to date. We're in This Together is a seven minute monster, which features the great chorus of a heavy, distorted riff and the shouting of "You and me, we're in this together now!! None of them can stop us now! We will make it through somehow!" It's quite touching, when you get past the heavy sound and think about. Much like the hugely successful Closer, from The Downward Spiral, this features a volley of instrumental doodling that Trent is so great at. The end is also similar to Closer, with a light piano melody played softly. This leads into The Fragile, another one of the album's stand out tracks. A rare occurence is when the lyrics are in the third person, such as here. The bass drum sounds as if it's got a wad of broken glass inside of it, and the chorus features "I won't let you fall apart" on top of that industrial guitar. This all makes sense, when you remember the interview where Trent said "There's a general theme to the album of systems failing and things sort of falling apart." A guitar solo follows towards the end, with the same melody as The Frail, and it sounds great. La Mer is another album best, with a subtle piano tune, looped repeatedly behind some higher notes. There's a bit of female vocals in French and then the rest is instrumental. A fairly beautiful track, actually, definitely a high point. The Great Below closes out the first disc, and is similar in style to the infinitely great Hurt, though nothing can top it. It's a slow burner, with gentle vocals and some very wonderful cello. It's a great song, and beats out Ripe (With Decay) as the albums best disc closer.

Much like The Wall and double albums before it, The Fragile suffers from filler fever. All double albums have filler and bad songs. It's an unwritten rule, and this is no exception. Most, if not all of it, is located on the 'Right' disc, the vastly inferior of the two. Starfuckers, Inc. is a blaring example, as it's just nothing special. It was originally a b-side for a reason, and it should've stayed that way. It's essentially a shot at Marilyn Manson, with multiple vocal takes being strung together, poking fun at Mansons inability to lay down proper vocals in a minimal of takes. Please, while a decent enough song, doesn't really do anything for me. It's sort of a 'meh' song. I'm Looking Forward to Joining You, Finally is another one of those not so great songs. It's slow, and a little dull, to be honest. There are several songs that could've been deemed not strong enough to stay, and this could've been cut down to a near perfect single disc. Sadly enough, it wasn't, so you'll just have to live with it. It doesn't bring it down too much, but prevents it from being better than it is.

Even with said filler intact, The Fragile is a great album. The good moments way more than make up for the bad ones. Some songs are absolute gems, and others could've been thrown away. Regardless, this is definitely worth a listen. The mood is very dark and sometimes depressed, but that's sort of what Trent does. The Downward Spiral was great too, but I feel the moments of grace here are superior to those. When you sit back and listen to this bloated rage filled album, you become engrossed in the many different layers of sounds and effects. It's almost hypnotizing, and a testament to how great Reznor is as a musician. The talent to make songs like these is apparent, and to make them enjoyable and great at the same time is praiseworthy. Definitely an album to check into, it blends moments of grating hatred with moments of pure beauty and glee. This is angry music the way it's supposed to be done, not with backwards caps and turntables, but with a one man band, large ammounts of compositional skill, and some compassion sprinkled on top.


SCRUPLES



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user ratings (1966)
Chart.
4.3
superb
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • Brent McCann (5)
    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)
    It’s the type of album where its problems upon first listen end up not being problems at...

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

  • David Ham (4.5)
    A mixed bag really. The Left disc sports a fuller sound and a high standard while the Righ...

    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)
    While this stunning double album comes with its flaws, the high points and the glimpses of...

  • OrbDragon (4.5)
    ...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Jawaharal
September 25th 2005


1832 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Bravo! excellent review.

This album is so much different from his other stuff. To me it has this mysterious feel to it. I love this album.This Message Edited On 09.25.05

Shadows
Moderator
September 25th 2005


2530 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Aw man, I was just about to review this. Way to take the wind out of my sails. Nice work anyway, but I still may do this since I'm such a diehard NIN fan and I think you rated it way too low. This album is at least a 6/5, and anything lower is just worthless blasphemy.

pulseczar
September 25th 2005


2385 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I like the Downward Spiral a teeny bit more than this, I didnt like the right disc that much. Good review, but i think you screwed up with the italics tags

Killtacular
September 25th 2005


1314 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Feel free to review it anywho, different views are always welcome. I think that the main flaw is the filler of the right disc. That and some accessibility issues, whereas everyone doesn't like loud shouting and grating guitars. I don't think I could give a double disc 5 stars. Filler Fever is evil. I almost gave it 4.5, but reconsidered.This Message Edited On 09.25.05

Shadows
Moderator
September 25th 2005


2530 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I don't think anything on this album is filler. When I think about how each track contributes to the album as a whole, I don't think the album would've been near as good it were shorter. The Right disc was definitely weaker than the Left, but I think it still had some incredible songs on it - but since you didn't seem to like Starf*ckers, an album highlight to me, you may disagree. This album had everything you could hope for from an industrail artsist: dark, heavy songs, beautiful instrumentals, and catchy dancable songs. I think this album is the pinnacle of industrial and should be what other industrial artists strive to surpass.

Hahahaha, it seems we have very different views of this album, so maybe I will do it.This Message Edited On 09.25.05

Med57
Moderator
September 25th 2005


1001 Comments


I might end up doing one as well for the real alternative view of this. :p It's pretty much the classic overly long double album in my opinion, and probably NIN's weakest full length album.

Jawaharal
September 25th 2005


1832 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

TDS is better than this by a good dealThis Message Edited On 09.25.05

Killtacular
September 25th 2005


1314 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Stop lying. This owns TDS every day of the week.

Jawaharal
September 25th 2005


1832 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ya. WHEN IT'S OPPISITE WEEK!This Message Edited On 09.25.05

Killtacular
September 25th 2005


1314 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Ouch. You get a thumb for that.
:thumb:

Kage
September 25th 2005


1172 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good job on the review, as usual, but I disagree that the Right side is significantly worse than Left. Starfkers, granted, kind of sucks, but it's still a cool song in the context of the album. I think Right has more of a dream-like, surreal feel to it, while the left side is more of an epic ordeal. That's the way I view the album and it makes it a lot better.

Besides, Ripe (with decay) and Underneath It All can make up for any bad song on Right twofold.

Apathy
September 27th 2005


645 Comments


"La Mer" is the best song. Ever.

ocelot-05
November 6th 2005


807 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Whoa! You didn't go into Ripe (with Decay). That's my favorite song on the album, probably. I think that Trent Reznor is good at singing softly, but when he screams, it's pretty bad. His industrial music is good, but I think he is way more talented at making chilled, yet intense ambient/electronica music. Even Deeper is pure genius.

Killtacular
November 7th 2005


1314 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I did so.

I just didn't go into it that deeply.

Kage
November 7th 2005


1172 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

How come the date at the top of the review seems to say the current day's date all the time? I saw that and was sure I remembered that you had submitted a Fragile review quite some time ago, and I was right. That should be fixed.

Shadows
Moderator
November 7th 2005


2530 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I thoguht the exact same thing. Apparently the date is of the last post in the review and not when the review was posted.

PbaSsEs
March 16th 2006


21 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Excellent review. Easily the best Nine Inch Nails album. The only way to truly appreciate it is if you listen to both disks end on end, somewhat tedious, but worthwhile completely.

joshuatree
Emeritus
August 20th 2007


3742 Comments


great review. I love this album, and I usually hate industrial music. i guess this is as poppy as industrial gets, but i still like it. it would be perfect if starfckers wasnt on it.



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