The Fragile

Originally published in Select Magazine on October 1, 1999

First album since 1994's "The Downward Spiral". In the past five years Trent Reznor has produced Marilyn Manson's first three albums and soundtracks for "Natural Born Killers" and "The Lost Highway". In 1997, Time magazine declared him one of the 25 most influential people in America.

One US mag has trumpeted it as "hate-pop's 'Pet Sounds'". Its predecessor sold five million copies. Reviews have to attend closed-door playback sessions to foil bootlegger. At 23 tracks and 100 minutes, "The Fragile" is a big deal in every aspect.

Constructed with a grueling perfectionism that makes even Leftfield seem sloppy, it's appropriately vast. Wedding ear-splitting fire power to an FM sensibility, first single, "We're In This Together," sounds like Bon Jovi gone apocalyptic, while the Kiss-sampling sledgehammer satire "Starfuckers Inc" claws back lost ground from one-time prot�g� Marilyn Manson's. Reznor may not have Manson's showbiz flair, but he's far more capable of pushing the sonic envelope. "Pilgrimage" twists a marching band into avant-metal, and "La Mer" mutates pretty piano into waves of Mogwai-esque noise.

But Mogwai don't sell a million copies. Despite its flaws (the sheer length, lyrics consisting solely of variations on "I'm fucked up") "The Fragile" is an experimental record for people who don't buy experimental records, splicing power ballads with intricate textures and walls of white noise. In the current staid of climate of mainstream American alt-rock that makes it a very big deal indeed.

Transcribed by Keith Duemling

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