16. Nine Inch Nails – The Fragile

cd cover 16. Nine Inch Nails – The Fragile

Nine Inch Nails joins the countdown. I like Nine Inch Nails… a lot. I don’t think I know of any one person whose writing has impacted me nearly as much as Trent Reznor. [Aside: I’m watching the Cubs game, so wild mood swings are–

HOMERUN!!! HOMERUN!!!! HOMERUN!!!!

wow.. that was some pretty convenient timing.] Anyway, back to NIN. The Fragile is a double disc set that was released about 5 years after The Downward Spiral…

What the hell!?

The umps just dicked up two calls on the same play. I hate them. A lot.

okay.. I can’t type right now.. gotta watch the game…

Cubs WIN!

wow… okay,

  • Somewhat Damaged – A pounding opening.. This is one of my favorite “I’ve been let down by everyone” songs. NIN lyrics are amazing, they really are. I love the way the music starts out fairly controlled, and “calm” (“So impressed with all you do.. tried so hard to be like you.“) then as the lyrics move on, and he becomes more and more disillusioned, the music gets louder, and more frantic.. .singing gets louder, and more strained, until he’s yelling (“Poisoned to my rotten core…Too fucked up to care anymore.“) Then halfway through it slows, and it’s like he’s trying to calm himself down, (“In the back.. off the side… far away is a place where I hide“) and then he’s completely let down by everything (“How could I ever think it’s funny how everything that swore it wouldn’t change is different now“), and just gets pissed, and goes off (“where the fuck were you?“)
  • So maybe his language is a bit stronger than some people would like.. but if you’ve ever been completely dicked over by someone (i.e. a girl), I gotta believe that’s what’s playing inside your head. I know it’s ringing constantly in mine.

  • The Frail – Instrumental.
  • The Wretched
    It didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to
    It didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to, did it?
    “.

    This song sports another pounding bass-line that just sounds sweet when cranked. Not so much an optimistic tune, but this isn’t so much an optimistic section of the album. Basic gist: We’re filled with hopes and dreams, but the entire world is working against us to see to it that we fail, and we can’t stop it.

  • We’re in this Together – Don’t look now, but it’s some optimism on a NIN album. So the mood is currently “everything is against us.”, the response is: “We’re in this together”:

    You and me
    We’re in this together now
    None of them can stop us now
    We will make it through somehow

    It should also be noted that this song completely rules. Certainly it’s one of my favorites on the album. I’m having a hard time thinking of another NIN song before this where there was this much energy and power put behind a optimistic song… hrm.. I’m having a hard time recalling another optimist NIN song before this one..

  • The Fragile – Continuing on this theme, The Fragile is all about “her”. This song is just plain perfect.

    The song opens with him describing his adoration for her:

    She shines
    In a world full of ugliness
    She matters
    when everything is meaningless

    Then the song starts to hint at her despair:

    Fragile
    She doesn’t see her beauty
    She tries to get away

    This is coupled with his despair:

    Sometimes
    It’s just that nothing seems worth saving
    I can’t watch her slip away

    And it’s that last line that fuels the rest of the song, and I think the rest of this album. He is given a new motivation for life because of this girl, and his purpose is now to make sure she doesn’t sink into despair the way he did. :

    I won’t let you fall apart

    Back to her despair.. and her grasping for help:

    She reads the minds of all the people as they pass her by
    Hoping someone can see

    And we have him trying to figure out how he can help her.. First he thinks about fixing himself in order to fix her.. Reminds me of Darth Vader’s line on Endor “It is too late for me…”:

    If I could fix myself I’d – but it’s too late for me

    It’s the very end of the song that I love most:

    It’s something I have to do
    I was there, too
    Before everything else
    I was like you

    He knows where she’s headed, as he’s been there himself, and now he’ll do anything (he has to.. it’s not even a choice anymore.). It’s a great song.

  • Into the VoidNothing ever grows and the sun doesn’t shine all day
    Tried to save myself, but myself keeps slipping away.
  • Where is Everybody – Here’s another of my favorites from the album. You really ought to just listen to it, though.
  • Underneath It All — This is how the album ends:

    Numb all through
    I can still feel you
    Hear your call
    Underneath it all
    Kill my brain
    Yet you still remain
    Crucified
    After all I’ve died
    After all I’ve tried
    You are still inside

    All I do
    I can still feel you

    You remain
    I am stained

    This is followed by the last of 7 Instrumental tracks on the album: (Somewhat Damaged opens the album, then The Frail, Pilgrimage which has a haunting soldiers march feel/sound to it, that reminds me of clips of Nazi soldiers marching before Hitler, La Mer, The Mark has Been Made, Complication which has a great almost techno sound to it that just keeps building on itself, and finally the ending track Ripe (With Decay)). This album is often compared to Pink Floyd’s The Wall, in that it’s a giant 2 disc work that weaves songs and instrumentals together into one giant cohesive unit all revolving around centralized themes, and building on them. I’ve already mentioned how much I like that concept, and I think this album does this wonderfully. I’ve also said before how much I like lyrics that would make good poetry, and I consider Trent Reznor the king of that.

  • 4 thoughts on “16. Nine Inch Nails – The Fragile

    1. I am neither a great admirer, nor a great hater, of Reznor. Like Alan’s .sig says (paraphrased):

      “Sometimes, I think Trent just needs a cup of hot chocolate and a blankie. —Tori Amos”

      Point being he’s just a really angry man that needs a hug. And actually, I think that *hurts* his art. Were he able to express anything other than the ugliest of negative feelings, I might agree that his work would make good poetry. And it probably still does IMO, but only on a small scale. I guess I would say that I don’t think he is a poet, even if some of his songs are poetic, since he seems to write about one thing. Maybe I’m too narrow in my personal definition of a poet…

      I don’t have _The Fragile_, though I recently added a couple of other albums to my collection (_Downward Spiral_, _Further Down the Spiral_, and the _Broken_ EP). While I haven’t listened to those too much, I’m still of the opinion that _Pretty Hate Machine_ is not only my favorite NIN album, it’s one of the better and more important albums of all time.

    2. Of all the artists you’ve covered so far, Reznor is the first whose work I’d include on my own list of albums I love. (I recognize that Pink Floyd should probably be on there but I honestly haven’t listened enough yet.)

      Reznor is a brilliant musician. His work is rich both in content and execution. If you’ve ever spent time listening to his remixes, they aren’t just the same tunes with a jiggy jiggy dance beat underneath, but complete reinterpretations of the original material.

      However, like Peter, I recognize that Trent is one messed up dude. I respect his honesty in asking all the right questions, I just wish he were able to find better answers. Great album addition, Ron.

      And in closing, the other NIN quote that makes the rounds in my sigs:
      “Well, look, he’s so anorexic sometimes. I just look at him and go, baby,
      you need my cooking honey.” –Tori Amos on Trent Reznor

    3. Great album pick, Ron. It’s hard for me to talk about “The Fragile” without sounding like a drooling fanboy. I think it’s safe to estimate that this album has gotten more “listening time” than any other album I own, despite only being out for 4 or so years. The music is so complex and brilliantly woven together that each listen I find myself appreciated something that I’d missed in earlier listens. See, I told you I’d sound like a fanboy.

      I agree a bit with pcg regarding Reznor, though. The self-loathing and rage that fill his albums (especially in the Downward Spiral-era recordings) borders on self-parody at times. And Reznor is indeed pretty messed up. But I think you can also see a bit of Reznor’s personal journey, dare I say maturation, in his NIN albums. PHM was a product of the early 90s, rebellious but still a little embarassed about it. The Downward Spiral seemed like the natural consequence of the indulgence in the vices (drug addiction, demeaning sex, rejection of religion) of PHM–self-destruction. And “The Fragile” has always struck me as the most mature and listenable album, a sort of “mellowing out” after the excesses of TDS. He hit rock bottom somewhere around TDS, and now he’s sort of shambling around in the pieces trying to figure out where to go next and how he might re-assemble the things he’s spent the last few years ripping apart. It’s still mopey, angry, and whiny at points, but it’s far more complex both lyrically and musically than previous efforts.

      I think I’m babbling now.

      Oh yeah, and some of the remixes are *amazing.*

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