Nine Inch Nails – The Fragile (1999)

It was a difficult time in Trent Reznor’s life. He had achieved some commercial success with The Downward Spiral in 1994. But, from the release of the album onwards, he became increasingly depressed and felt suicidal. He spent the next five years honing his craft onto this double-disc concept album, The Fragile. It was quite a while to do so. Some fans became impatient with this approach, and this affected sales, not selling as well as The Downward Spiral.

Despite all this, Trent Reznor made a truly great album here. It’s a double-disc concept album about attempting to rectify a bad time. The time making the record was not wasted. We can hear a huge array of interesting, unique and consistent sounds on offer. It finishes the nineties trilogy of primary releases by Trent Reznor of Broken, The Downward Spiral and this album, The Fragile.

Let’s observe this masterpiece, track by track.

We kick off with Somewhat Damaged. It’s a great listen, with a basic chugging riff, electronic sounds and pounding drums galore, along with Trent Reznor screaming. It blows away everything else at the time. It’s so unique and well done, a great way to start the record.

The next piece, The Day The World Went Away, is a very depressing sounding piece. There are no drums in it, making it sound unusual, for sure. It talks in a very dark sense about struggling to deal with emotional torment, not exactly easy listening, but great all the same.

The Frail is an understated solo piano piece with some atmospheric sounds at the end of it. It’s very sad sounding but is a welcome change with a variety of instrumentation in the album.

The Wretched continues in fashion the piano playing, leading into a proper song this time. It’s about the fragility of human existence with respect to doing the right thing. “Now, you’re one of us. The wretched,” sings Trent Reznor. His screaming returns in the chorus. Epic piece.

The next song, We’re In This Together, is a prolonged piece about being in a miserable situation with someone, and sharing that experience. It goes on for seven minutes or so but never lets up in terms of an interesting piece. It is so well done though, it sounds futuristic.

The follow-up, The Fragile is the title track and a sad love song discussing preventing a lady from falling apart. It sounds more so that Trent Reznor is falling apart emotionally here, but is excellent nonetheless.

Just Like You Imagined is not specifically that, but is a good instrumental that uses a great variety of sounds together for listening. Not bad a listen all the same.

Even Deeper explains emotional distress and has a great bassline to it. It’s a more subdued piece from Trent Reznor, but a good one which is rather catchy. It’s progressing the concept of this monster album very nicely.

Another instrumental, Pilgrimage, sounds like a disturbed pilgrimage at that. It’s a short and not as good as you’d think instrumental, but all the same, listenable.

The heavy metal inspired No, You Don’t with its repetitive and catchy riff is a good piece about comparing oneself to another person, “You think you have everything, but, no, you, don’t!” cries Trent Reznor in his typical sung/screaming complex. A good piece, with a twist at the end.

La Mer is a mostly solo piano piece with some beautiful French interpretations of Nine Inch Nails lyrics. It’s a great piece nonetheless, and one of the most beautiful and simultaneously depressing pieces that you can hear today. Mint.

The Great Below is by far one of the most depressing Nine Inch Nails pieces out there. It seemingly talks directly about suicide and negative issues, but it is well worth listening to. Disc one ends here.

Disc two kicks off with The Way Out Is Through and repeats the lyrics, “All I’ve undergone…I will keep on…” suggesting some hope in the dark music at hand. It features a wonderful array of vocalized sound effects that sound very much like something from a video game, brilliant indeed.

The follow up Into The Void reprises La Mer with the main melody, but is very weak a piece. It has Trent Reznor going from mumbling to screaming as the song progresses, which is a nice touch.

Where Is Everybody? is quite a good rhythmic and danceable piece, although as indicated already, Disc Two is not as good as Disc One. Still, it’s okay overall for the flow and concept of the overall album.

The Mark Has Been Made is the next piece, and it’s a sonic rich, yet dull instrumental. There is no great melody or memorable parts to it. Outside of the album, it falls flat. Fortunately, it fits well on the album.

The next song, Please, is much better. It has Trent Reznor screaming about urges in life and the way he feels about it. It’s the calm before the storm of the next piece.

The main hit single from the album Starfuckers, Inc. sounds awesome, catchy and quiet/loud. It’s an awesome piece, well worth listening to, having a cynical stab of the nature of being a rockstar. Brilliant.

Complication is a short instrumental, which is okay, but not out there fantastic. It ends with some warm bass like sounds, before entering into the next song.

I’m Looking Forward To Joining You, Finally is a very good piece, despite it sounding like a pseudo-suicide note by Trent Reznor. It’s revealing and we are glad that Trent Reznor battled on throughout whatever issues he may have had. A good effort.

The next piece, The Big Come Down, is about said subject. “The big come down, isn’t that what you wanted?” asks Trent Reznor. It’s a funky yet somewhat weak piece from our master of doom but fits in okay with the album.

Following up is essentially a remix which is called Underneath It All. It’s a very good remix of The Great Below. The outro is fantastic, featuring some very trippy vocals and finishes the piece nicely.

Ripe (With Decay) is the final piece on the second side of this album, which is the last piece on the whole album. It’s a picturesque instrumental and we come to the end of this very dark album.

Realistically speaking, this album is a better sonic journey than that album. There are many different sounds and layers to explore on it. If you really have had a bad day or experience and need some music to vent through, look no further.

9/10

Nirvana – Nirvana (2002)

To be fair, if you only want one Nirvana album to keep, this it it.

Nearly 10 years after Kurt Cobain’s suicide, comes this release. It’s a great compilation that does justice to the legacy of Nirvana. For example, the opener You Know You’re Right is a rarity, recorded shortly before Kurt Cobain’s passing. It sounds like it too, being deep and emotional in general.

The other cuts are just as good. This album tends to focus on rarities unheard of before. It’s a great little compilation masterpiece, varying from the early Bleach era, through to Nevermind and In Utero, and the MTV Unplugged album. It’s a great way to show off how wonderful Nirvana worked together as a unit.

Nirvana were a professional and talented team of musicians and despite the negativity that features in their music, it’s a great listening experience to have. If you are new to Nirvana, check this compilation out. Nirvana kick started the 1990’s, and were hugely influential. The proof is in the songs, and they have many great songs here.

9/10

Aphex Twin – Richard D. James Album (1996)

Aphex Twin is the namesake of Richard D. James. Which explains where this album got its name from. It marks an interesting twist in the career of Aphex Twin, well known for creating the Selected Ambient Works albums, which were very popular. This is a later release, showing a more quirky side to Aphex Twin’s musical approach. It’s geared more towards IDM rather than Ambient music this time around. It’s a brilliant listen for any quirky EDM fan out there.

begins this album, with ultra cut-up beats and melodic sound structures. It’s nothing like what he was doing earlier on, It is really brilliant here though, and fits the IDM style mood nicely. It’s perfectly balanced in its use of sonic structures and use of fine detail and melody within the piece.

Cornish Acid follows and is more balanced, with science fiction like acid sounds and more reoccurring cut-up beats. It’s a simpler, but still brilliantly done music piece. The name says it all? Perhaps it does.

The next piece, Peek 82454201, is much more minimalist. Quirky name aside, it’s a continuation of the theme throughout this album. It sounds insanely complex. A wonderful musical expression from Aphex Twin. The outro stops dead in its tracks.

After that, we have Fingerbib. This is nothing at all like what we have heard on this recording so far. It is almost reminiscent of Glitch music but is simple and melodic. It’s a great addition to an already great album. It’s an excellent and mellow piece.

Carn Marth is the next track along and is leaning towards Drum and Bass, although it is still very much the experimental cut-up sounds we have heard earlier on the album. Listening to this makes one wonder how much effort was placed into this album, in short, a lot. Never a dull moment here.

To Cure A Weakling Child is unusual. It sounds like aliens made this track. Sampling a child’s talk, it goes into cut-up frenzy, almost sounding like a messed up lullaby. It’s effective and interesting enough to keep on listening through. Perhaps the cure for a weakling child is music? We will never know.

The following track Goon Gumpas is a short instrumental with less randomness, and more ambient melody. It’s an interesting thing to place this into an album such as this one. Sounds very gentle and mellow.

Arriving next, we have Yellow Calx. More interesting cut up percussion and metallic sounds exist here. Words cannot do enough justice for this album, it has to be listened to be believed. With unusual time signatures and free form sounds, it definitely sounds top notch.

Girl/Boy Song begins slowly, with a classically influenced melody. It joins with more trippy, cut-up beats and becomes an interesting and very listenable piece in its own right. It pounds away with the basic melody in the background. This is one for those who like to listen to different instruments at different times, this great piece will suit you well. Progressive IDM? Perhaps.

Logan Rock Witch is the last track on this recording. It has some Crash Bandicoot like sound effects at the start, with an organ melody following it. This is definitely “out there”, if you enjoy a bit of randomness. Solidly good all the same. The album ends, and you feel like wanting more.

This is the real deal for a quirky electronic album. It is so well done that you never yawn, look at the clock or feel bored. For those who wish to explore surrealistic, cut up, beatastic IDM like music, definitely give this a whirl. Epic listening.

9/10

Blink-182 – Enema Of The State (1999)

This album broke Blink-182 into the mainstream. Prior to this, they had set themselves up as a novelty sort of group for skater punks and young college tools. After the release of this album, they widened and broadened their audience to a mainstream perspective.

The songs are definitely here, along with the production and mixing. It sounds much better than what their previous releases did. Plus, Blink-182 had an image to boot as well. This is their highest selling album to date. It’s excellent, so let’s dive in and check it out.

We begin with Dumpweed. It’s a short tale about college romance, and desperately attempting to hold it all together. It’s short, sharp and just perfect to start off the album with.

The feeling of betrayal by a girl enters the scene. Don’t Leave Me is all about that. It’s a very good listen and continues the strength of the album. These songs are shorter than you’d expect, but just top notch all the same.

Aliens Exist is a story about contact with alien life. It’s a typical Tom Delonge penned idea and something he is semi-obsessed with, even to this day. Sadly, Tom Delonge is no longer an active Blink-182 member, but he captures the surreal well here.

Going Away To College is a tale of trust in dealing with the said title of the song. It’s very American Pie-ish this album and is reflected in the choice of song subjects and selected works here. Still, it is very good.

The follow up What’s My Age Again? speaks of young adult immaturity, and never being able to hold down a relationship due to this particular reason. It’s quite melodic and catchy. Never a dull moment on this album.

The next song Dysentery Gary is about a guy who loses his mind over heartache with girls. It’s a very short and interesting twist for Blink-182.

Adam’s Song talks directly about suicide. It’s a great song though, and directly quotes Nirvana into Blink-182 territory: “I took my time, I hurried up. The choice was mine, I didn’t think enough.” It’s a strong statement and is consistent enough to remain sitting well in the middle of the album, segueing into the next song.

All The Small Things was the last song recorded for this album, but you can hear why. It’s the best song on that album and is a party song for sure. It’s so catchy and has a wonderful melody to boot. Enjoy this hit single of theirs.

The follow up is The Party Song which is hilarious. The best lyric in it is, “Some girls try too hard,” which is true but listen to the song lyrics for further understanding on this one. It’s hilarious and awesome, which is what Blink-182 did best.

The song afterward, Mutt is much more punky and humourous than you’d think. It tells the story of an interesting couple who just are in it for the sex. It’s comical, and worth your attention.

Wendy Clear is a nonsense story and perhaps is a little weak because of it. But it sits as a bridging piece towards the end of the album.

Anthem finishes the album with a hilarious story of a house party being thrown. These guys obviously had a decent sense of humour and it flows in this tale of underage fun. The album ends nicely here.

After the release of All The Small Things as a single, Blink-182 went mega. They stayed this way until 2005, when Tom Delonge left the band for personal reasons. Things were not the same again after that for Blink-182. Still, this recording is exactly what you need if you want some 90’s punk with attitude. The loud guitars here point to that, it’s a keeper this album.

9/10

Nirvana – In Utero (1993)

Kurt Cobain was not in a good state of mind by 1993. He had struggled to cope with fame and heroin addiction as well. Plus, marrying Courtney Love wasn’t exactly a great move. He still had some great music in him though and unleashed this album in that year.

The album is a step closer to what Kurt Cobain wished to do musically. It’s a rawer and more unapologetic stance in comparison to Nevermind, with help from producer Steve Albini. Indeed, Kurt Cobain disliked Butch Vig’s production on Nevermind intensely and although this album was mixed for a more pop sort of audience, there is no doubt that the music here is a more uncompromising version of Nirvana than Nevermind ever was, especially lyrically. Perhaps the name and artwork of the album referred to his daughter being conceived, quite odd really.

We start off with Serve The Servants and we have Kurt sounding more distressed than ever. The band puts in a great performance here though, and there are plenty of distorted guitars here to boot.

The next song Scentless Apprentice is a heavy and distorted pop Grunge song to boot. It goes from slow to furious in a nanosecond. Dave Grohl really does well here on drums and keeps the groove going well.

Heart-Shaped Box is an indirect stab at Kurt’s wife Courtney Love and has some pretty freaky lyrics. Kurt’s guitar work sounds really good here and is the standout of this song. “Forever in debt to your priceless advice.” Sounds like a man who was not enjoying his life.

Rape Me is notoriously explicit. But it’s a catchy piece at that. Kurt insists he is not the only one who desires this feeling and is rather an odd concept to get your head around. It sounds a lot like Smells Like Teen Spirit in the intro, at least.

The next track Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle is a slower and more melodic song, but still sounds messed up Kurt Cobain style. It sounds not out of place on the album, however.

The following track Dumb is a mainly acoustic and cello piece where Kurt sings about comparing happiness to stupidity. It’s a strange notion, but one that has meaning behind it. A good and more mellow song nonetheless.

Very Ape is a rather throwaway song. Good thing it only lasts a couple of minutes. Interestingly, this song has the riff at the start that was used in The Prodigy’s Voodoo People track. It’s a rather odd Nirvana piece regardless.

Milk It goes from PiL style guitar parts in the quieter section, to a loud noisy roar in the main sections of it. Kurt wasn’t happy with himself at this point, “Look on the bright side is suicide.” and despite the negativity, it is good Grunge pop.

We come across another hit single. Pennyroyal Tea starts off with a mellow acoustic part before Kurt Cobain launches into music that tells the world about some of his various problems. Kurt wanted to lay everything bare here.

It goes deeper on the next piece Radio Friendly Unit Shifter and Kurt Cobain questions the reasons for his problems in life. He repeatedly asks, “What is wrong with me? What do I think? I think.” From a lyrical point of view, we know that Kurt Cobain was losing it mentally, amongst the great music here.

Tourette’s comes next and is a much more pacey punk song about nothing in particular. It has a great chord progression in it, however. It just kicks ass and changes the mood a little bit before the last track.

All Apologies finishes Kurt’s career, for the most part, with a musical suicide note. He questions everything that he stands for and leaves us sadly with this song. It’s a good epitaph for his musical life.

This album sold well, but not as much as Nevermind did. Sadly Kurt was in a state of mental decline at this point. His death by suicide left behind a musical legacy that should have been continued. Still, this album is a great if not dark listen to all rock fans out there. Much like Kurt’s idol Ian Curtis of Joy Division, suicide was seen as acceptable, sadly. It’s best to focus on the music instead, and this album is just awesome.

Nirvana fans should check out the re-releases and extra tracks put onto those remastered re-releases. It’s a great Grunge album for sure regardless.

8/10

The Prodigy – The Fat Of The Land (1997)

The Prodigy was a big name in the 1990s in the world of music. After the release of their first two albums, Experience and Music For The Jilted Generation, they were in the process of fine honing their own musical craft and were becoming more and more popular along the way.

This album represented the peak of the fame of The Prodigy. They had moved on from the sell-out UK Hardcore nature of Experience and the pseudo-political rants of Music For The Jilted Generation. This album went mega, selling millions of copies worldwide, and gave the group attention internationally.

We begin with the notoriously politically incorrect piece Smack My Bitch Up. It’s actually the product of a multitude of samples and just sounds still amazing over 20 years later. The explicit nature of this song, in particular, ensured that the group was seen as a neo-punk movement, but the intention musically is somewhat different.

The follow-up Breathe is a great piece featuring their vocalist Keith Flint. “Breathe the pressure, come play my game, I’ll test ya! Psychosomatic, addict, insane!” It’s a rather nonsensical rant but this song oozes cool.

Diesel Power is a rap piece. In fact, it’s wonderfully fresh and features one of the many guests on this album rapper Kool Keith. It’s a perfect combination of the Big Beat sound and rap music that fans were dying to hear. It’s good fun.

Funky Shit sounds like a warped acid house music sounding attack. It’s so catchy you will have it stuck in your head for days. It’s a sonic montage, yet just done so effectively.

The next track is weaker. Serial Thrilla doesn’t really do much that is great to listen to, but still, it’s passable. It could have been rethought, but it’s okay on this record.

The next track was notably played in the film The Matrix. Mindfields is a trip for the 1990s and has some wicked guitar feedback style samples in it. It shows the genius of Liam Howlett and his ability to craft sonic pieces that were fantastic.

Narayan is a good song, and you may think it is Richard Ashcroft singing? But no, it’s Crispian Mills instead. Still, he puts in a mega performance here, despite the fact he sounds a lot like Ashcroft. This song goes through several transitions and many interesting electronic experiences before it explodes into the next piece on the album.

Firestarter is a very overrated tune. It’s about being punk, but aside from that, falls flat musically. Some of the sounds here are really dated indeed, and this whole song needs a rethink, at least in its original form.

The next piece, the instrumental Climbatize is really very good. It’s a mega trip which takes you to a musical place that one cannot find on planet Earth otherwise. Music sometimes has that effect on people.

The last song is the worst on the album and easily should have been junked. Fuel My Fire does not fuel a fire for listening to that song, and fortunately only goes on for a short time. The album ends swiftly after that piece.

The Prodigy broke into the mainstream with this album. Afterwards, it took the group nearly a decade to make another record, which was nowhere near as good as their 90s work. But if you like the sound of mega beats, interesting textures and punk like attitude, look no further. A good album to listen to now and again, and the first track is bound to disturb some listeners too, adding shock value to the recording. Indeed, there are Nazi quotes in the album booklet as well, for your pleasure.

7/10

Oasis – The Masterplan (1998)

Noel Gallagher took the downfall of Oasis’s third album Be Here Now not exactly well. Shortly after Be Here Now was released, fans became critical of the sound of the album, and Noel really took the fact that Be Here Now was no Definitely Maybe or (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? to heart. Noel dislikes Be Here Now nowadays and refuses to perform Be Here Now era songs with Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. In addition, he refused to add any Be Here Now tracks to the Oasis Stop The Clocks compilation released in 2006.

In a knee-jerk reaction to the negative feedback he received, Noel released this album in 1998. It’s a compilation of B-Sides and rarities from the early Oasis days. It’s a really good listen, proving that Noel Gallagher valued the fans of Oasis more than people realised.

We begin with the strummed chords and Noel singing a demo of Morning Glory before we melt into Acquiesce. This song was so good that it was released as an afterthought single later on in Oasis’s career. It mixes Liam and Noel’s singing wonderfully, and the song itself has a mega riff and soulful meaning. It’s really that good.

The next one is a bit more subtle. Underneath The Sky tells the tale of a wandering traveler. It’s a much weaker song but has some cool lyrics to it: “All he needs in his life is a suitcase, it belongs to a friend of a friend. And as we drink to ourselves we’ll amuse ourselves. Underneath the sky, again.”

Talk Tonight is based on a real-life experience of Noel Gallagher’s which is told in depth in the Definitely Maybe documentary and the Supersonic movie. It’s an ode to a girl who Noel spent some time within the U.S., and who most likely prevented him from suicide. Deep. But it’s a great Noel Gallagher piece with strummed acoustic guitars.

Going Nowhere was originally a Be Here Now b-side. It’s one of only two from the album from Be Here Now, indicating that Noel already disliked Be Here Now intensely. It’s a good piece inspired by Burt Bacharach and is mindblowing and prophetic as Noel Gallagher wrote it in 1990. How unusual, but cool all the same. It’s an orchestral delight.

A good example of the punkier side of Oasis is prevalent in Fade Away. It’s an Oasis classic and just reminds us to be true to ourselves throughout the years. It’s similar in meaning to D’Yer Wanna Be A Spaceman? which is another song by Oasis, but more popular. It’s fast and nasty sounding, which is cool.

The only real stinker on this album is The Swamp Song. It’s a bad instrumental piece which should not have been included on this album. It is totally unnecessary and takes away from the quality of the compilation itself.

What arrives next is much better. A great cover of I Am The Walrus is here, and although it’s edited for length, it sounds wonderful and a great interpretation of the original song. It’s louder and more punk like. It was a cover piece in Oasis for many years.

Listen Up is a song of mixed emotions. Although it has melancholy all over it with the singing, the repeated refrain about not minding one’s own company is strange for a song like this. Liam recommended for Noel to edit this song for the album, which he did just slightly.

Rockin’ Chair is an excellent and underrated Oasis gem. With acoustic guitars and Alan White’s unique drumming on this, they really could have and should have added this to the (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? album. But they did not, sadly. Still, it is here for your enjoyment.

The famous Half The World Away talks about matters in Noel Gallagher’s personal life. It’s a good piece but seems to lack real meaning behind the song. It’s beautifully done though. It is a must hear song in any case.

The weak (It’s Good) To Be Free arrives and reminds one that time is short on this planet. This song isn’t a bad song, but not as consistent as the others. There is a rather jovial outro on this one, and it’s good to hear regardless.

Stay Young definitely should have been on Be Here Now. Noel didn’t put it on after he replaced it with Magic Pie. Guessing what Noel was like at the time, he probably was taking too many drugs to understand this decision. The result? It’s here, for your enjoyment. It’s a great pop song too.

Headshrinker is another blistering fast pop-punk song. It’s like Oasis on speed meeting The Buzzcocks and singing their own version of The Sex Pistols Bodies. It’s a bit of an odd topic for a song, but it’s short and sharp.

The title track is the last track on the album. The Masterplan is really one of Noel Gallagher’s best ever songs. It starts off with strummed acoustic guitar and carefully placed guitar parts, adding a string section and brass section to boot. It is so good that it surpasses every other song on the album. It’s truly uplifting.

This album is highly recommended for Oasis fans who are sick of hearing Wonderwall everywhere. It’s a good batch of songs for your enjoyment. As Noel Gallagher himself indicated, this really should have been the third Oasis album, not Be Here Now. He was likely correct, the B-sides here by Noel Gallagher and Oasis are very good indeed.

8/10