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.