Wounds. Holes. Skin. Bleeding and feeding and breeding. Cup of coffee and Nigel Slater's cookery page. Blood. Filth. Flesh. Anything good on television? The shit and the piss. The burning hatred. THEMore on
Trent Reznor must be a bitter man. It's ten years since Nine Inch Nails released the authentically nasty industrial flambi of 'Pretty Hate Machine'; five since their last album, the goodwill-to-all-men merriment of 'The Downward Spiral'. And now, the former Crown Prince of weird sex and excruciating piercings must watch while his gloomy electro thunder is stolen by - oh, the indignity - his own protigi.
While young Marilyn Manson used horned irony and claw-hammer satire to pass from ridiculed wannabe tied to Reznor's nipple chains to the
Uber-lord Of This Earthly Dimension, Reznor is still clinging to an altogether moodier path of mental collapse and hollow anomie. There's no 'I Don't Like The Drugs (But The Drugs Like Me)' here. Just a lexicon of angst and horror that most postmodern - hell, postwar - households have long since put up on the shelf next to the Reader's Digest. The US magazines who have prematurely hailed Reznor and his new album as rock avatars of Mount Sinai proportions are sadly suggestible - 'The Fragile' is not a whole new synthesis of pain and guitars. This late in the day, it's background.
It's particularly annoying, then, that this double album still offers up moments superbly red in tooth and eye: the dubious Eastern European marching song 'Pilgrimage', looped like a noose; the Kit Kat Club glam beats of 'Somewhat Damaged'; 'Starfuckers, Inc', slyly playing the 'Marilyn or Courtney?' game; the guitars-in-a-lathe scree of 'The Day The World Went Away'. Yet 'The Fragile' is hung, drawn and neutered by its refusal to take its artfully glazed gaze off its audience for a second, peddling the same open psyche surgery as 'The Downward Spiral', adding a definite article to everything - 'The Fragile', 'The Wretched', 'The Frail' - in a cheap bid for goth portent. It chases 'crossover' and that means compromise. It means grey rock sleet masquerading as a storm beneath a haze of 'experimental' textures. It means too many tracks that sound like the mutton of 'Head Like A Hole' dressed as sacrificial lamb, too many attempts at doomed tenderness (the aspirant Zen shimmer of 'La Mer', 'Ripe (With Decay)') that push the old purity-stained-by-filth schtick. Too much mood. Not enough songs.
Here comes Trent, knocking at your door, asking for your misery. And all you can say is, 'Sorry, already given', and send him away. The Goth. The Outdated. The Ever So Slightly Foolish.
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