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The Fragile

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★★★★½
(1053 Reviews)

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Trent Reznor took five years to record this monstrous double-CD set, wielding a perfectionist’s touch in the production and the subtlety of a chainsaw in the musicianship. The result is uncompromising, full of hysterical noise and yet utterly accessible. Somehow, someway, this is one of the best pop records of the year. –Matthew CookeThe Fragile is even bleaker than 1994’s The Downward Spiral as it lurches along with a perpetual scowl. A frenzied collection of buzz-saw pop, Trent Reznor’s grim opus yo-yos through two CDs with scattershot intensity. Hushed one minute and explosive the next, spite and anger intermix with heartbreaking resignation, sometimes in the course of one song. Still, Reznor’s dour and uncompromising approach is accessible and undeniably entertaining, even when he eschews vocals altogether. Unchanged are the obsessive lengths that he goes to for the sake of a dynamic thrill ride. The quiet tones that open the instrumental ”Just Like You Imagined” suddenly erupt into a barrage of off-time rhythms and noodling keyboard riffs, all rising to a torrid conclusion. The sheer sonic invention on display here is astounding. Reznor’s production approaches Brian Eno’s in terms of dynamism, though it arises from a profoundly different sensibility. ”Starfuckers Inc” uses chopped-up vocals for the verses and a shouting mob for its propulsive, Ministryesque chorus to mercilessly slam some of NIN’s imitators (most pointedly, Marilyn Manson). And while there’s nothing here as dance-floor-ready as Downward Spiral’s ”Closer,” ”Where Is Everybody” comes close, thanks to its slow, sweaty gyrations and Adrian Belew’s slippery guitar figures. The Fragile’s songs are ultimately simple explorations of deep disillusionment. However, once Reznor finishes twisting them out of shape, they’re towering soundscapes of rage that are at once terrifying and beautiful. –Matthew Cooke

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  • The Fragile was the last great rock album of the millenium. ‘Nevermind’ may have been THE album of the 90’s, but in my opinion this was the BEST. Since then, vacuous pop music has continued its domination. The best album I’ve heard since was ‘Mer De Noms’ by A Perfect Circle, and even that wasn’t as good as this. My guess is that it will be a LONG time before The Fragile is bettered.

    Posted on December 31, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I must confess that I was not a fan of Nine Inch Nails before this album came back in September of last year. I bought it because I liked a few NIN songs on Pretty Hate Machine and I was in the music store to pick up the new Tori Amos double-CD (which came out the same day). I listened to Tori’s album first and then listened to “The Fragile”. I am a HUGE Tori Amos fan, but I have not listened to her disc again since I bought it. I have listened to “The Fragile” at least three times per week for the past six months. Trent Reznor has earned my full respect and attention with this collection. This was, by far, the best thing in music released in 1999. I HIGHLY recommend this album, even if you’re not a big fan of Nine Inch Nails. There are tons of tracks to appreciate here from the blistering opener, “Somewhat Damaged”, to the mello and melodic masterpiece “The Great Below” to the dense sonic layers of “Into the Void”. “Where Is Everybody”, an angst-funk-groove selection, has to be my personal favorite, but every song on these two CDs is amazing. If you don’t care for Nine Inch Nails currently, you can be converted like I was! Buy this now!

    Posted on December 31, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • After seeing Nine Inch Nails in New Orleans last Thursday, I’ve decided to toss my hat in and write a review of Trent Reznor’s latest masterpiece.It all started with “Pretty Hate Machine”, a spectacular album, that brought an industrial style of music to the masses. Followed by the much harsher “Broken” and then “The Downward Spiral”, which melded the styles of both previous albums into one.”The Fragile” expands greatly on “The Downward Spiral”, fullfilling another piece in NIN’s musical journey. Was it worth the five year wait? Certainly. Does it sound somewhat like it’s predecessor? Yes, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Each Nine Inch Nails record flows into the next. They’re not so much individual albums as they are one cohesive work. Building and extrapolating on each other to give the listener a glimpe into the sometimes tortured psyche of Trent Reznor.Reznor’s lyrics also tend to carry over from album to album, providing continuity. I think some of his better efforts are included on this album.What sets NIN apart from most of the clones is the music. And here again, they don’t disappoint. Sonically this is a beautiful work with layers and layers of sounds forming on top of each other, with new sounds being discovered with each listen. Some of the best tracks are the instrumentals like “La Mer”.Overall it’s a brilliant album that most NIN fans already own and that the curious should check out. A breath of fresh air in todays stagnant musical enviroment.

    Posted on December 31, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • It’s been almost a year since I’ve bought “The Fragile”. I’ve listened to both CD’s so many times it would make Trent Reznor either very happy or very worried. And you know what? Both CD’s are still getting daily play. From the sheer anger of “No, You Don’t” to the to funk angst of “Please” to the thumping evil beats of “The Wretched”, this has to be the greatest album ever. I can honestly say I’ll never find an album of this magnitude, simply because nothing comes close. That’s a bold statement, I know, but it’s all true. Whether you agree or not about that, you can’t deny the fact that this album is the best produced album ever. It seems like every time I listen to it I find something new. Reznor and Alan Moulder did the greatest job humanly possible. And that’s just the music. “Somewhat Damaged” (which is co-written by tourmate Danny Lohner) is one of NIN’s best written songs. The emotion of it is extremely strong, the music is slow (at first) and then builds up to an explosion of anger being led by it’s fragile-yet-angry lyrics. And to think, that’s just the first song off the first disc (or the “Left” disc as it’s referred to). Next is “The Day The World Went Away”, a beautiful song with loud guitars and no drums. Then it’s “The Frail” (one of the best of the instrumentals) which bleeds into “The Wretched”, a song that sounds like you’re going to hell and Trent’s showing some empathy. “We’re In This Together” is simply amazing. When that chorus kicks I still get chills up and down my spine. The title track has one of the most beautiful and sad guitar solos I’ve ever heard. As I’m sure you’ll notice when you get it (and you better too), is that there is a lot of violin and cello work throughout the album. It doesn’t shine any better than in “Even Deeper”. Though mixing credit is given to Dr. Dre, you can’t even tell he did anything. The way the song leads out is breathtaking. “Pilgrimage” is the best instrumental on “The Fragile”, it sounds as if dead souls are marching along; absolutely perfect. “La Mer” is too beautiful for words, starting out with heavenly piano notes that explodes into hip-hop beats (!) and Prince-style (! ) funk that will move you like you never thought NIN could. “The Great Below” is just too touching. Both romantic and sad, all I can say is just listen to it. Now on to the “Right” disc. “The Way Out Is Through” is a great song that leads into an even better one, “Into The Void” (one of my favorites off the album). “Where Is Everybody?” through “Star (um..) Inc.” retraces the betrayal that Trent was dealing with in earlier songs. “Star Inc.” by the way, rocks like Limp Bizkit wish they could. The next couple of songs are also great. But it picks up at another one of my favorites, “Underneath It All”. The beat and romantic lyrics make it so it can be played as loud as you want, or as soft as you want. The finale, “Ripe (With Decay)” is a very dark instrumental with it’s gothic-style piano notes to give it a dead-like feel. A long album, an epic album, a masterpiece. Play this album with your headphones and at the highest volume possible through big speakers, you’ll pick up on all sorts of interesting sounds. By the way, sorry for the long review, but I had to attempt at giving it the justice it deserves.

    Posted on December 30, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • This is “The Fragile.” Agressive. Searching. Loose. Smashed up. Glued back together. Imperfect. Flawed. Closer to something. Sad. Happy. Optimistic. Searching. The wonder. The light. The turmoil. The brooding. The mind. The fragile. Yes, all of this is Trent Reznor, his emotions and sounds standing naked to the listner in this two-disc album that refuses to leave you past the end. It’s an album that’s hard to describe, but it easily is put on the cinematic scale that only few bands like Radiohead and Pink Floyd can give you. “The Fragile,” can easily be said that it’s different than all of the other Nine Inch Nails albums–since all of them are so sonically different from one another–but in this case, “The Fragile” is an important turn. With the introduction of a more low-fi organic sound, like violins, yukelledes, and pianos, mixed with the electronic tension that NIN has long-since been associated with, you have a sound that is extremly avant-garde, almost art-rockish. One really good display of this is the opening track, “Somewhat Damaged. It begins with a simple innocent, accoustic guitar, playing the same tune again and again until it starts to be built up with more tracks of accoustics. A hard pounding beat sets in; every hit is distinct from one another like they all have personalities of their own. Electronic whizzing begins, filling the ears with more and more building tension; every new track builds to make the tune more intense. Reznor starts singing soon afterwards and quickly turns the song, which so innocently began with a little guitar, into a raging Goliath. And that’s just the first track! Reznor amazingly stresses the importance of the ‘concept album,’ a line of song after song that feels like a movie being played to you sonically. Every song, like the crunchy-but-mellow “The Day The World Went Away” flows neatly into the other, like the mellow classical “The Frail.” Every song, from hard to soft, fits neatly between each other, with fade-ins coming so seamlessly you wonder how anyone could find a connection between them. The dizzing “Where In This Together,” with its whizzing guitar buzz and never-ending pace feels extremly schizophrenic for a first listening, but after more listening, you begin to discover how honest and right it feels; its lyrics, which are some of Reznor’s most optimistic in years, gives you a sense of the over-all theme to this album: Rising above all that’s happened to you, or at least trying to. Songs like the jazzy “La Mer” and also the title track genuinely show a bright shinging gem of beauty to be found in all of this personal examination and acceptance. Other songs, such as the hip-hop fueled/Dr. Dre-assisted “Even Deeper” and “The Big Comedown” drag you back into the place where Reznor tries to escape from–his tortured psyque. But that very ability to mix these kind of songs in the same album, yet not in a way that doesn’t challenge the listener to think is truly amazing, and is probably one of Reznor’s finest feats as a producer. He brings out what we hide within ourselves and shows how ugly and sometimes beautiful they are. Of the two discs on this album, none stands out as better as the other; the two both show brilliance. Although the listener might get side-tracked by the first disc, it’s excellent to explore the rest. One can’t ignore the Pink Floyd-ish “The Way Out is Through,” or the funk-filled “Into the Void.” Instead, this album, after all, isn’t an album you just skip from one song to another, but rather one you listen to the whole way. It’s also excellent to listen to with your headphones (I STRONGLY recommend your first listening over headphones). “The Fragile” is an album of the truest account. This is NOT Limp Bizkit. This is NOT Kid Rock. This isn’t EVEN Korn. Instead, this is music that’s intelligent, deep, brutal, yet beautiful. This is an album of substance. I highly recommend it. It wouldn’t hurt a non-NIN fan to check it out. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

    Posted on December 30, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now