Nine Inch Nails, The Fragile

Andrew Parks

By Andrew Parks

on 09.05.12 in Reviews

The Fragile

Nine Inch Nails

When Trent Reznor howls, “Poisoned to my rotten core/ too fucked up to care anymore,” against a pulverized wall of ravenous riffs and malfunctioning synths in “Somewhat Damaged” — a track so terrifying it’s reportedly been used to torture Guantanamo Bay detainees — he isn’t trying to deliver a hit single. The reclusive crypt keeper is in an even more delicate headspace than he was at the end of The Downward Spiral, a semi-autobiographical disasterpiece that ends with the Nine Inch Nails frontman ruling an empire of dirt and wearing a crown of shit.

Melodramatic moments that reward repeat listens

The Fragile follows a similar path, raising its curtain to reveal a man who’s a “broken, bruised, forgotten sore” and exiting stage right with a bleak but beautiful instrumental that’s tellingly titled “Ripe (With Decay).” Like nearly everything Nine Inch Nails has ever released, it’s full of melodramatic moments, but it also rewards repeat listens in ways that are unique to Reznor’s most exhausting effort, including the feedback-engulfed neo-classical nods of “La Mer,” the “Hurt”-caliber balladry of “The Great Below,” and the climatic, head rush choruses of “We’re In This Together.” In the rarified realm of long-delayed, labored-over LPs, it’s like Chinese Democracy, only, you know, good.