How to come up with a worthy follow-up for The Downward Spiral? Against all odds the best selling record for Trent Reznor and his Nine Inch Nails. Quite simple: release a double disc album which pushes the creative envelope even further. Enter The Fragile.
Releasing a double disc record is considered commercial suicide by most record labels. Trent Reznor didn’t care and came up with his most ambitious and creative work to date under the moniker of The Fragile. In nature it’s a very different record than its predecessor, yet it’s unmistakably vintage Nine Inch Nails.
Let’s start with the differences. The Fragile has a very organic sound and feel due to the use of real instruments, instead of computerised sounds and beats. Secondly, it’s more about creating a certain atmosphere. This is achieved by using small interludes and soundscapes like The Frail, La Mer, Just Like You Imagined and The Way Out Is Through. Thirdly, Trent Reznor sings more instead of screaming and shouting, which adds to the overall mood of this album.
Like I said before The Fragile is still vintage Nine Inch Nails. The familiar anger, frustration and alienation still shine through in songs like Somewhat Damaged, The Mark Has Been Made, Even Deeper, No You Don’t, Starfuckers Inc and I’m Looking Forward To Join You Finally. Trent has simply found more avenues to address his demons.
The Fragile is not without its faults however. Two discs worth of music make it a very long journey to go through. At times it gets dangerously close to bogging down, despite all the intricate details and the obvious musical vision displayed on the album.
Despite this, The Fragile still is a landmark record within the electro and industrial genre and shows Trent Reznor at his all time creative high. Troubled, depressive and hauntingly beautiful at the same time, this is Nine Inch Nails at their zenith.
written by Raymond Westland