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Pitchfork: Album Reviews: Nine Inch Nails: The Fragile

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Album Review

Nine Inch Nails
The Fragile

[Interscope / Nothing; 1999]

2.0 Find it at: Insound | eMusic | Lala

1:00am: I've gathered my supplies and I'm going to sit this one straight through. Trent's going to keep me up for at least another two hours with his latest bloated indulgence, The Fragile. So I've got a pot of coffee. It's black. Pitch black. As black as your fucking soul! And I'm typing on this machine. This machine is grinding me down. I feel like a fucking machine! Grrrarrrgh!

9:00pm: My first experience with The Fragile, as is the case with most new CDs, comes in my Honda. I'm sitting at a red light on Webster and Damen, waiting for a left turn. Trent Reznor is screaming, "Tear a hole exquisite red/ Fuck the rest and stab it dead" over a troop of industrial guitars and digital whining. I yawn with such stretching intensity that I miss my turn light. The entire situation strikes me as particularly humorous. Here I am-- a 24- year- old white guy with floppy bangs, wearing a tie, driving a Honda-- and all the bile Trent Reznor can must muster up from his supposedly scorched soul makes me yawn.

Sometime over the last decade, music that is intrinsically meant to be menacing (i.e. Nine Inch Nails) has become a banal syndicated- action hour soundtrack. It's easy to imagine the overproduced grind of "The Wretched" blaring through a TV screen as Nightman kicks a henchman off a roof. This stuff could be the score to "The Crow 4: In Space." And this time around, Trent has unanimously failed to shock anyone above the age of 15 and under the age of 54. I mean, have you listened to old Judas Priest lately? Now, this is not to say music must be confrontational, although the best of it typically is. However, in a pop society that has become numb to industrial sounds through ESPN2 and Surge commercials, it's no longer interesting or tolerable to base one's entire output on volume and amplified cliches.

And so "Somewhat Damaged" continues to pound out its same four notes. Systematically, layers of crust, fuzz, dirt, and whatever else Reznor can scrape off the walls in his studio are piled on top, pounding out the same four- note scale. 1-2-3-4. 1-2-3-4. 1-2-3-4. Ooh, wow, did he just say "fuck?" Trent, Holden Caulfield rubbed that out 50 years ago.

8:00pm: "Hello?" asks Ryan.

"Okay, I'm going to read you something," I say.

"Oh, hey dude. Um, sure."

"'She shines/ In a world full of ugliness/ She matters/ When everything is meaningless.'"

"Oh, man."

"'Sometimes I have everything/ Yet I wish I felt something.'"

"Are these lyrics?"

"'Underneath it all/ We feel so small/ The Heavens fall / But still we crawl.'"

"Haha. What is this?"

"Pleading and/ Needing and/ Bleeding and/ Breeding and/ Feeding/ Exceeding."

"Rhyme-y."

"Now everything is clear/ I can erase the fear/ I can disapper."

"Man, what is this. Is this some emo album?"

"I am every fucking thing and just a little more/ And when I suck you off not a drop will go to waste/ It's really not so bad, you know, once you get past the taste, yeah/ Starfuckers."

"No. Oh, no. No. It's Nine Inch Nails!"

1:49am: "Even Deeper," a track mixed by Dr. Dre, spits aluminum riffs into my headphones. The entire concept of pairing of Dr. Dre and Nine Inch Nails, a match maid in Kornboy heaven (or most likely the Interscope commissary) is laughable. Shuffling b