Entertainment Weekly Gives The Fragile An "A-"
Originally published in Entertainment Weekly on September 1, 1999
"The Fragile" enters a world of lousy teeny-poppers and hip hoppers who live and die by the single, and one has to wonder if a 2 cd art-rock epic can command the attention of a mass audience... It certainly deserves to. The Fragile is a visceral concept piece that revolves loosely around betrayal and its aftermath. Emotionally, it's familiar territory, but while current acts turn such emotions into bathroom graffiti Reznor aspires art. Reznor pits acoustic gutiar, piano, and unhinged voice against cybernetic drum corps and howling armadas of electric noise. The man vs. machine standoffs are breathe taking, most bear the imprint of co-producer Alan Moulder. The Fragile looks to older role models like King Crimson and David Bowie. Like art rockers before him, Reznor also nods to the 20th century classical music, mixing piano melodies a' la John Cage with thematic flavor from Claude Debussy "Le Mer". The storyline itself echoes mythology and Joseph Campbell's "The Hero With A thousand Faces". You almost expect cliff notes. These concepts are balanced with Reznor's brutish love of rock thunder and his secret weapon a popsmith's feel for hooks and melodies. The only shortcoming is NIN's raison d'etre. By the 2nd CD the suicidal impulses and pleadings can feel exhausting. Right now hard rock doesn't get any smarter, harder, or more ambitious than this.
Transcribed by Keith Duemling