The Fragile

Originally published in CMJ on October 1, 1999

The first single from The Fragile may be the cheerily titled "We're In This Together," but be forewarned, that happy sentiment is a red herring. Not only is the song an apocalyptic love overture that uses images of human dissection as a metaphor for emotional intrusion, but the two-CD set is a monolithic undertaking filled with Reznor's oft-copied '90s angst. Six years have passed since the last Nine Inch Nails record -- in pop culture time, that amounts to a few decades -- but Reznor hasn't altered his raspy yowl nor has he lost his pop-industrial bag of tricks. The surprise is that his music sounds as fresh as ever, albeit for new reasons. Pop's thriving "aggro" scene (e.g. Korn and Limp Bizkit) may attempt to match Reznor in its rebellious fury, but NIN is simply smarter, quicker, subtler, and, in many ways, much more vicious. Consider "Starfuckers, Inc." Once Reznor lambastes his unnamed, superstar target (widely believed to be Trent's former prot�g�, Marilyn Manson) as a phony and an ass-kisser, the singer expertly appropriates a classic Carly Simon lyric in a moment of fierce black humor. "You're so vain/I bet you think this song is about you/Don't you/Don't you/Don't you?" Ruthless.

Transcribed by Keith Duemling

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