The Fragile

By Dorian Lynskey for Select Magazine on October 1, 1999

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

Constructed with a gruelling perfectionism that makes even Leftfield seem sloppy, it's appropriately vast. Wedding ear-splitting firepower to an FM sensibility, first single "We're in this together", sounds like Bon Jovi gone apocalyptic, while the Kiss-sampling sledgehammer satire of "Starfuckers Inc." claws back lost ground from one-time prot�g� Marilyn Manson. Reznor may not have Manson's showbiz, flair, bet he's far more capable at 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 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 climate of mainstream American alt-rock that makes it a very big deal indeed. (4 out of 5 stars).

Transcribed by Keith Duemling

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