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

Public Image Ltd. – The Flowers Of Romance (1981)

Public Image lost Jah Wobble, their bassist after the release of Second Edition. He went off for an ordinary life driving trains for a while. Stumped, John Lydon thought of a way to go on. So,  in response, this album has no bass guitar on it.

Having said that, this album is still really very good. It is still up to a great standard of John Lydon, and is a great listen.

We begin with Four Enclosed Walls, with its unusual intro and John Lydon chanting and wailing away. It then leads into a very catchy drum part and subtle instrumentation. It’s a great way to kick off this album, and sounds very artistic.

The follow up, Track 8 is a strangely named piece. It seems a lot more mellow and laidback, even sounding Syd Barrett-ish somehow. It seems like a weaker track though, and this album seems like a step back in cohesiveness overall.

Phenagen has a very strange musical arrangement, with music that would not be anywhere far from voodoo witch doctor music. John Lydon sings very well here, and shows that even so-called punk rockers can carry a song and melody, no matter what you think of their ability to do so.

Flowers Of Romance is next up, with its elastic drum beat and a multitude of experimental sounds to boot. It has John Lydon questioning the decisions that one makes, peaking in the chorus and has some psychedelic edge to it. A brilliant song, and surely a mockery of romance itself? Who knows.

The next piece up, Under The House, has a super long intro. It’s a bit weaker, but still satisfying enough to listen to. It seems like a freaky sort of song, because it probably is. This album is certainly Leftfield for sure, if you know what I mean.

After that, we hear an unusual drum led piece called Hymie’s Him. It is an instrumental, but a poor instrumental at that. It lacks structure and is all over the place. Still, it fits on the album nicely though.

Banging The Door has John Lydon telling people nicely, to place their problems elsewhere. It is a great statement, and continues Problems by The Sex Pistols thematically. It’s a good tune though.

Go Back is the real track 8. This is difficult to make of the purpose of the song, with John Lydon singing lyrics about impressionist style values. It is a random piece for sure.

The last one on the album, Francis Massacre, is really quite good. Without a load of different instrumentation, sounds and chanting, it’s a good way to end this album. John Lydon has really improved as a singer at this point, and sings this album very well.

There are many remastered reissues of this album with a few extra cuts which were recorded around this time. Is this the best PiL album? It quite possibly is. It is a pure statement of artistry by the group and John Lydon. It blows away the bad synth pop which was arising at the time. It is a very underrated album, and deserves listening.

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