Trent Reznor returns with Nine Inch Nails' The Fragile

By Jeff Flynn for Hi-Fi Magazine on September 1, 1999

A lot of things have changed since 1994, the year that Trent Reznor released the last Nine Inch Nails album, The Downward Spiral.

Lollapalooza, the alternative music festival that featured Nine Inch Nails on its first trip across the country, is now a thing of the past, having signaled an end to the early-90s music scene in which Reznor's music prospered.

Even the groups which have survived the demise of alternative seem to have done so with diminished results. Did anyone buy the last Smashing Pumpkins album? Did anyone rush out to buy Marilyn Manson/Hole tickets last year?

Didn't think so.

Fortunately, Reznor appears to have paid absolutely no attention to current musical trends with The Fragile. The two-disc set is filled with what is probably the least commercially accessible music Reznor has ever released.

Thank God.

There is nothing worse than seeing "Closer" played by some awful cover band, in between equally awful versions of Eagles and Van Halen songs, as guys in the audience with Lynyrd Skynyrd T-shirts and long hair in back mouth every word, giving extra special emphasis to the F word.

Reznor once said he doubted that anyone beyond the first 100,000 people that bought Pretty Hate Machine understood his music. The Fragile seems to be Reznor's attempt to reach those people, leaving the "Closer" crowd in the dust.

For the most part, Reznor seems to have lost interest in pop. With long nearly-symphonic stretches on songs such as "The Great Below," the album's title could be taken literally.

This isn't to say Reznor visits completely foreign territory. Songs like "The Day The World Went Away," perfectly display Reznor's skill for starting simple and building to epic proportions, and as usual, he laces the album with the occasional tantrum-like outburst.

Releasing a double album with little reliance on pop may seem like commercial suicide to some, but after listening to The Fragile, it seems evident that Reznor wasn't interested in recreating past pop success. If he played this music for a cover band crowd, he'd probably get booted off the stage. He'd probably have a smile on his face, too.

Transcribed by Keith Duemling

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