The Fragile Review
Originally published in guitar.com on October 1, 1999
Trent Reznor's first studio album in five years contains direct musical connections to 1994's The Downward Spiral in a host of explosive, noisy, angst-ridden assaults like the opening "Somewhat Damaged" or the likely hit-if-it-didn't-contain-the-f-word "Starfuckers, Inc."-- hey, you'd get a little pissed being holed up in the studio for five years, too. But the most intriguing and remarkable moments among many in The Fragile's 100-plus minutes are those that drift furthest from Spiral's depths in musical tone if not in lyrical content. A handful of instrumentals sprinkled among the self-flaggellation offers impressive, eclectic arrangements, not to mention a mix of modern beats and sexy swagger; the cascading "Just Like You Imagined" (with one of three appearances by guitarist Adrian Belew) and spooky jazz of "La Mer" are the best examples of this. And the emotional undulations and electronic atmospheric changes the music rides through over 23 tracks provide a cathartic summation of an artist both comfortable in his all-black past and ready to move on to a grayer tomorrow.
Transcribed by Keith Duemling