Album: The Fragile
Artist: Nine Inch Nails
Label: Nothing Records (TVT/Interscope)
Summary: Beautiful, decaying music featuring interesting rhythms.
Lyrically, The Fragile continues to focus on depression and suicide.
The theme of losing the comfort of religion rears its head again,
making me wish poor Trent Reznor had just been raised an atheist.
Whereas The Downward Spiral charted the singer's descent, this album
merely confirms that he has stayed exactly where he was, which doesn't
make for such a gripping story.
Thankfully, there are additional themes involving the singer's
relationships with other people. In the opening song, he appears
to be telling a tale of a lover he once had. They agreed to stay
together through thick and thin, but eventually grew apart as the
other person became happy, leaving him alone in his depression once
more. The title song seems to show him trying to save someone else
from slipping into depression like him, whereas the most catchy rock
songs appear to depict a simple hatred towards Brian Warner.
In a welcome departure from Trent Reznor's usual output, The Fragile
contains a wealth of instrumental music amongst its more accessible
rock songs. This is just as well because many of these pieces are
both beautiful and interesting, satisfying both the emotional and
intellectual levels. Trent Reznor moves effortlessly between catchy
rock songs, a moving piano solo, and numerous atmospheric soundscapes
of noisy, decaying music, with these styles seamlessly blending into
The Fragile's strongest point is the music itself. It sports plenty
of complex time signatures, and some tracks even feature two independent
rhythms playing simultaneously, a device which is sadly rare in
modern popular music. (Technically, these are not polyrhythms as
the notes rather than the bars are synchronised.)
Many instruments are used alongside the standard electric guitars,
acoustic drums and synthesisers, including both prepared and traditional
pianos, and even a violin sent through a delay effect. As with the
different types of tracks, the instruments all seem to work together
as if they had been designed to feature alongside each other.
Clocking in at over an hour and a half, The Fragile provides enough
material to keep a fan occupied for a long time, especially given
the repeated listens that the album warrants. Although it isn't as
good as The Downward Spiral, it has a unique musical style, making
it something special in its own right.
If you've already got The Downward Spiral and Year Zero, and you
still want more, get this. If you want to hear interesting, depressing
instrumental music, it's worth checking out for that too. Otherwise,
get Trent Reznor's best work first.