The Fragile : Halo 14 (Nothing/ Interscope)
Everything is different
now. Everything has
irreversibly changed in
countless miniscule ways.
Every time Trent Reznor releases a record, new impossible
colors appear in the palette of rock music. The importance
of a new Nine Inch Nails album can be overwrought, even
overlooked by the ignorant and jealous, but it cannot be
overstated. After five years of most rock music sitting in
it's own piss begging for some last moments of attention
and pity, a new Nine Inch Nails album is practically the
second coming of Christ. No-one cares about music like
Reznor cares. No-one cares about a musician like Reznor's
fans care about him. This is a serious business, for sure,
but more importantly, it's a glorious, magnificent,
life-affirming, soul-scorching, wings-giving head-cleaning
statement of art and ambition. Pull up a prayer cushion and
get on your knees, your patience and faith now has reason
to breathe and live, it's called The Fragile and you need it
more than you could ever know.
Half A Decade
Five fucking years, five long, long fucking years. I don't
want to hear another Limp Bizkit or Sugar Ray or Days Of
The New or Orgy pretending that they're a band for the
rest of time. I don't want to hear Marilyn Manson's
self-serving messiah masturbation manifesto anymore. I
don't want to see Michael Stipe's deliberately weirdo
pretend-reluctant rock star pantomime on any stage or TV
screen. I don't want to pay 25 bucks to catch a husked
and drained once-upon-a-rock-band going through the
motions at The Fenix or The Firehouse. I don't want to get
another album with one great song and nine copyist pieces
of didn't-even-try lackluster bollocks. I don't want some
jackass who shakes his head on stage and does a coupla
lines off of an ugly woman's stomach before the show
proclaiming himself an icon in Raygun. Fuck you, Korn. Fuck
you, Creed. Fuck off all of you posing, inefficient, visionless
pieces of shit hanging inside Rolling Stone in your shiny red
shirts and street-street combat boots. Fuck you, Oasis.
Fuck off all you heart-string drawing folky acoustic
balladeers of the simplest, easiest, bluelined human
emotions. Fuck you if you take it easy and flow like water
through the simplest channel. Fuck you if you really don't
give a shit. Fuck you if you pander.
The Fragile' is over 100 minutes and 20 songs long and
comes on 2 tapes, 2 CD's or 3 pieces of vinyl. Each format
has a different number of 'side/movement' beginnings and
endings, and thus each format has a different sequention
of music. The vinyl, having the most sides, includes 2 extra
tracks, completists, and is probably the most effective
sequention of the bunch, perfectionists. Are you tasting
the attention to the tiniest detail? The beautiful cover art
features the world-famous boxed NIN logo cut right in half
horizontally. Draw your own statement of intent from that.
There's a lyric booklet, also beautifully illustrated, telling
the story of Reznor's 5 year exile in psychotherapy,
desperation, panic, betrayal, loss, mourning and eventually
calm. He's no longer pretending to reach for the gun, no
more Downward Spiral with only blackness waiting, there's
actually squares of light in the dirt.
As always, Nine Inch Nails is Trent Reznor. As always,
Reznor lists the members of the live NIN team on the sleeve
for the upcoming word tour that kicks off in Europe in
December. As always, there are aides and accomplices in
the NIN recording process. The Fragile was engineered and
co-produced by the mighty Alan Moulder, the man who
worked his magic in the past with My Bloody Valentine,
Curve and many other envelope-pushing bands. The Fragile
was sequenced by Bob Ezrin, producer of Pink Floyd's The
Wall. As you read this, The Fragile is the #1 selling record
in America, and, believe it or not, the first time NIN have
climbed to the top of the commercial pile.
The most important album of the year pushes itself into the
national anger capillary with 'Somewhat Damaged,' a
thudding and pounding piece of ominous tension seething
with threat and impending violence. Loud, louder, loudest.
"This machine is obsolete" screams Reznor, and the new
era of NIN has begun. 'The Day The World Went Away'
gently peels back the skin of fucked-up-ness kinda like
'Hurt' did on The Downward Spiral, and then it's into the
first of the instrumentals on the album, this one called 'The
Frail.' Some bands use instrumentals as fillers, experiments,
pointless segues. Nine Inch Nails use them as mood
setters, jumping points between emotive tableaus on the
record, transitions with purpose and destiny. Note the
detail, the way every nanosecond on this album is
architectured to perfection, no-one even comes close to
NIN in that department. Reznor's attention to detail,
density and substance is awe-inspiring.
More hate. 'The Wretched' weaves piano, guitar and
electronic mojo into a huge, punching FUCK YOU song with
the bitter chorus 'It didn't turn out the way you wanted it
to, did it, did it' repeated over and over as the guitars
launch missiles into a burning red sky. Big, bad and brutal, I
know someone I'd love to play this one to at full blast with
their ears nail-gunned to their skull. Sometimes the best
revenge is watching your enemy fuck themselves up
through their own misguided actions, and 'The Wretched'
Behold title track The Fragile, one of the most desolately
beautiful works Reznor has ever written. Where 'Head Like
A Hole' found Reznor wanting to die before succumbing to
his lover's dominance, and 1994's 'Reptile' had him
comparing his amor to a cum-sucking honey-trailing whore,
The Fragile is a genuine attempt at a love song, Reznor
quietly singing "I won't let you fall apart" to his shining
woman who "matters where everything is meaningless." Of
course, this is Nine Inch Nails, so by the end of the song
the world has intruded and ugliness permeates the
anguished beauty of the track's beginnings.
'Into The Void' smacks of The Downward Spiral with it's
string and beats build-up, but thirty seconds in and
Reznor's dressed up like Prince, big fat 'Feel You Up' synth
chords squelching out around him. Looped metal guitar
swirls in, the vocal tracks start overlapping, the volume
rises, and just when you expect that cavalcade of NIN
noise, it's more synths and beeps and 'Horny Toad'
fuck-rhythms. Surprises are around every corner on The
Fragile, and there's a lot of corners.
'Starfuckers, Inc.' is a massively calculated slam of Reznor's
one-time protégé and friend, Marilyn Manson. Lyrics like 'My
God pouts on the cover of a magazine/my God's a shallow
little bitch trying to make the scene''leave little room for
doubt. Not only does Reznor nail a man he feels betrayed
him, he also creates one of the best and hardest rock
tracks of the year leaving his pretenders in the dust. Just
to elevate 'Starfuckers' to that perfect NIN level of
innovative structuring, Reznor climaxes the song by softly
interjecting the coup-de-grace from Carly Simon's 'You're
So Vain' and then giving it Certified Devil Strength with
murderous howls, apocalyptic six-string ninja assaults and
rugby-team backing vocals. Awesome.
Atari Teenage Riot and Prodigy are in the funeral parlor on
'Complication,' a full-speed zig-zag tech assault laid smack
down on a whining pseudo-goth acoustic guitar channel.
It's short, it's lyricless, it will kick your ass.
'I'm Looking Forward To Joining You, Finally' is the most
bizarre song title on a NIN record this far, sounding way
more Morrissey than Reznor, another indication of the
man's attitude change. Musically, we're in
swamp-delta-funk territory, Tom Waits throwing his
shadow across the soundboard. Apparently Reznor set
himself musical targets in the studio, taping names and
album titles to the mixing desk as inspiration for vibe and
feel. This song was definitely recorded under the 'Bone
Machine' banner. "I've done all I can do/could I please
come with you?" whispers Reznor as the album reaches it's
'The Big Come Down' harks back to original pre-'Pretty Hate
Machine' NIN, all new-wave keyboard and hyperactive
adrenalized Madonna-esque structure, albeit with shouting
vocals and not sultry whispers. 'Underneath It All' as the
self-referential title suggests is trademark Nails. Massive
breakbeats meet slow and low vocals meet rising clanging
guitars. Faster, louder, harder, more. "All I do," sings
Reznor, "I can still feel you."
It all gets buried beneath the waves when 'Ripe (With
Decay)' ends The Fragile via slow, long, sullen and
schizophrenic instrumental drowning. The silence that
follows is deafening, yet strangely peaceful. You need this
record, and if you ignore it, you lose, big time.
CD Review by Reef Valmont
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is provided courtesy Keith Duemling and Tracy Thompson from the collection previously
located at SUS.