D. Yvette Wohn

June 2000

The Fragile

Shall I say 'The Fragile' or 'The Fragile Original Sound Track'? Strange as it may sound, 'The Fragile' seems like one long song that makes you think of images- images that you never really got around to thinking of. Many people said that the album didn't sound like Trent and that it was entirely different- I'd have to say that these people are the ones who've only listened to 'Closer'. In fact, the music is so 'Trentish' that it could be spotted anywhere. A lot of the pieces have similarities to ones from former albums. For instance, 'The Mark has been Made' actually sounds a lot like 'Something I can never have', which was in the 'Natural Born Killers O.S.T.' Perhaps this is one of the reasons I think this album sounds like a soundtrack to a movie.

I remember a friend saying, "Listening to 'Closer' would get me horny." If 'Downward Spiral' was more about tingling the spine with sensual sounds then 'The Fragile' is more about dealing with the essential emotions rather than mere shouts of hatred. Whether or not Trent was more serious when he made the album (and actually, he did go through harder times, but let's not get into personal details), it is definitely 'heavier'. This isn't a garage band screaming at the top of their lungs, 'I love you! I want you!' or 'I hate the world! Fuck the world!' This is about a man who knows what he's talking about (and we're all going to interpret it a billion different ways) and he's dealing with questions that we all have but are too scared to ask and gently flicking them at us. The 'Downward Spiral' was a trip down to the bottom- 'The Fragile' starts at the bottom. There are a lot of strings especially low strings such as the cello and bass. This gives the music depth.

There are a lot of instrumental pieces in the album. They act as both bridges between the separate songs- linking all the songs into one big whole concept- but they also stand individually. When you listen to music of other musicians sometimes you hear these instrumental pieces and you think, "What the hell- this is probably just something he put together in a couple hours," and then when you listen to the album you skip the instrumentals (which can get really boring sometimes). However, with Trent, nothing is accidental. If he put 'Complication' between 'starfuckers, inc.' and 'I'm looking Forward to Joining You, Finally,' there was a reason. This takes us back to the bridge concept that I mentioned earlier. What is so special about these instrumentals is that they have a central theme that plays throughout the piece like a haunting melody that still lingers in your head until the next song starts. Sometimes the melody from the previous song overlaps in one's mind with the one after it- causing an eerie and sensational concoction of sounds in the head.

When you first listened to the 'Fragile' you could probably sense immediately the control of feelings. In former albums, we remember Trent yelling at us (well, maybe not us, but anyway). We can take examples such as 'Head like a Hole' or 'Sin'.

This eerie control of emotions is what makes 'The Fragile' fragile. You deal with it more tentatively perhaps because you can feel that a slight poke will break the bubble and let all the pent-up desires and pain come rushing out. It's like when you're really hurt you can't even cry because you're too stunned to let the tears flow. Even when Trent is whispering in a very strained voice, we can hear in the background a screaming Trent singing the harmony but it is so small, like a person yelling several blocks away. At times when Trent is actually screaming at us, it's not as hard as before but rather the screams melt in with an entwining melody.

As a personal fan of Nine Inch Nails, it is hard to grasp any faults of the album. However, I did note that Trent's lyrics did not change much. He uses similar concepts of conflict between the inner self and the outside and uses a lot of the rhymes and passages that he used before (one example is where the skin cracks- he used a lot of 'peeling skin' before as well).

In all, the Fragile is certainly a milestone in Trent's musical career. But he's still not giving us answers. All he has is the gurgling sound of 'La mer' (the ocean). And the ocean never gives answers, you see.

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Nine Inch Nails
Nine Inch Nails
This article is provided courtesy Keith Duemling and Tracy Thompson from the collection previously located at SUS.