Nine Inch Nails – The Fragile : Deviations 1

So right off the bat it must be said that this very unique version of Trent Reznor’s 1999 masterpiece ode to mental breakdown and substance abuse is for a very limited number of Nine Inch Nails fans. Of those fans there’s two kinds of fans that will want this: the hardcore completists and the soundtrack fans. The casual window shoppers, the mild interest guys and gals, and that one guy that never “got it” after Pretty Hate Machine need not apply. This one isn’t for you. Thanks for stopping by, though. Sure, take a beer with you. See you later…

Okay, now that we’re alone let’s talk about The Fragile : Deviations 1.

So back in December, along with the release of Not The Actual Events, it was announced that a definitive version of Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile was being released. It was meticulously remastered by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. As a huge fan of The Fragile I was pretty excited about this prospect. As well as the original album, there was also an oddity announced in The Fragile : Deviations 1. It’s an instrumental version of the 1999 record. The album was completely remixed and remastered as instrumental fare. According to NIN.com:

A very special limited edition of The Fragile is now available for preorder in the NIN store. This unique version of NIN’s classic record was created by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and features 37 instrumental, alternate and unreleased tracks, many of which have never been heard before anywhere.”

Reznor explains, ‘The Fragile occupies a very interesting and intimate place in my heart. I was going through a turbulent time in my life when making it and revisiting it has become a form of therapy for me. As an experiment, I removed all the vocals from the record and found it became a truly changed experience that worked on a different yet compelling level. The Fragile: Deviations 1 represents Atticus and I embellishing the original record with a number of tracks from those sessions we didn’t use before. The result paints a complimentary but different picture we wanted to share.

Not being what I’d call a hardcore NIN fan, but also not a mild occasional listener, I was intrigued by the prospect of an instrumental version of the first NIN record I sort of really got into. Two years prior to The Fragile I’d totally fallen for NINs “The Perfect Drug” off David Lynch’s Lost Highway soundtrack, so in 1999 I was ready to fall for a NIN record. After a day or two of mulling it over in December I decided to throw caution to the wind and I preordered this behemoth of a set(it’s 4 LPs at $80.)

According to their website it was supposed to ship in April of 2017. April came and went. As did May and June. I found myself going back to old emails to make sure I hadn’t dreamt preordering this damn record. I did indeed order this thing. Finally in July I’d gotten a confirmation email that this record was shipping and a week later a heavy, flat, square box showed up on the front porch.

It arrived.

I’ve been spinning this record on and off for the last couple weeks. I stand by my first statement that this is something of a completist-only kind of album. Most folks aren’t going to fall head over heals for this album. No vocals, it’s an album that pushes the wall of sonics to the forefront. It’s gone from an epic ode to self hate and utter emotional devastation to something that transcends that pain and turns it into something far different from its origins. It doesn’t feel angry and pained anymore.

The Fragile : Deviations 1 feels like something of a rebirth of the original album.

This is a completist kind of album, but it’s also for those fans of the Reznor/Ross film scores. First, the music is still there. It’s brighter, louder, and more in focus. The guitars hum with a vibrancy. Without the vocals your attention is pushed towards the amazing job Reznor and Ross did on engineering this thing. It really does sound like a score to some lost dystopian film. Something like Wim Wenders doing a post-apocalyptic arthouse epic. Paris, Texas-meets-The Road Warrior. Listening to these songs with new ears you really do notice just how cinematic Reznor’s arranging truly was, even back in 1999. He was definitely working towards becoming that film composer he’s become. With Trent Reznor making Atticus Ross a permanent member of NIN only goes to show just how important that musical partnership has become. Sure, he was in How To Destroy Angels with Reznor and Reznor’s wife Mariqueen Maandig, but for him to be a permanent member of NIN is something else. It was always just Reznor writing and recording in the studio, with a band assembled for gigs. Having Ross as a permanent member truly shows the importance of that partnership.

I feel I’m rambling here. This record is a masterpiece to my ears. It’s one I happily add to the collection of Reznor/Ross collaborations. I feel that their scores for The Social Network, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl, Before The Flood, and Patriot’s Day are modern classics. They are all unique in their own way, but carry with each of them that Reznor/Ross DNA strand that gives them all this cohesive, arthouse charm. I would put The Fragile : Deviations 1 in the same category as their film scores. With unreleased tracks, alternate takes, and extended versions of songs this album feels like it’s own musical beast. It’s almost like the score to the making of a concept album about a guy’s fall into madness. It’s very meta if you think about it.

This one is definitely worth your time if you’re willing to commit to the ride. If you’re looking for “Head Like A Hole”, you should look elsewhere.

9. 2 out of 10

Gut Reaction – The Fragile : Deviations 1

I don’t often start vomiting out words of praise on a first run of an album, but since the album is from Nine Inch Nails and that album is a bizarro world take on the classic The Fragile called The Fragile : Deviations 1 I felt it was okay to do so. So here’s a few thoughts upon dropping the needle.

I knew what I was getting into when I handed over my money card digits back in December and preordered what was being touted as an instrumental version of Trent Reznor’s ode to nervous breakdowns and substance abuse, 1999s The Fragile. Even when The Fragile was released way back before we could ever imagine a world where Donald Trump could be voted in as the leader of the free world, I wasn’t all that into NIN. I got my copy of The Fragile for free by calling in and answering a question on the local alternative radio station during a lunch time program. I drove an hour to the tiny radio station in September of 1999 and got my winnings in the form of a double CD and listened to it on the way home. This was the first time I ever really liked something from NIN. But still, it didn’t really sink in for me till 2005s With Teeth(my best friend and I did get stoned and watch scenes from Star Wars with “The Wretched” soundtracking it, so that was cool.) But with With Teeth, that’s when the teen angst that was supposed to fuel my NIN love was replaced with adult angst and I found myself screaming “Don’t You Fucking Know What You Are!!!” on my way to work in the mornings. Year Zero was another favorite as well, with Reznor making an intimate and angry electronic record for all to enjoy. But it wasn’t until Ghosts I-IV came out in 2008 that I found myself head over heals for this guy that was so angry in my youth. Instrumental pieces that felt like mini-suites of anger and desolation, I thought to myself I’d love to hear Reznor start scoring films. Two years later him and Atticus Ross began a fruitful scoring career with David Fincher, and so began my love of everything Trent Reznor.

This brings me to The Fragile : Deviations 1. For the person that absolutely LOVES Reznor’s film work this record is for you(meaning me, but it could be you, too.) There was always something very cinematic about The Fragile. At times I felt that beautiful and ugly melodrama was wasted on words and screaming, so with the vocals removed the record takes on a whole new meaning and feel. Instead of hearing a man’s descent into lovelorn, chemically induced madness it sounds as if we’re hearing the score to a faintly familiar film that we can’t quite place. I’m currently finishing side 4(there are 8 sides here, guys) and it’s probably one of the cleanest, crisp mixes I’ve heard in a long time. Reznor and Ross have gone back and tweaked the original songs to accentuate certain parts that may have gotten lost in the mix the first time. The buzzsaw guitars are even more biting(as on “Somewhat Damaged” and “We’re In This Together”.) There are also unreleased pieces strewn throughout as well that add a whole other dimension to this record.

I think having a few years of film work under their belts, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have learned how to build mood and create aural scenes in the studio. I truly feel that they’re in their element scoring for film. I loved Hesitation Marks and dug Not The Actual Events, but I’m finding myself drawn to records that talk through the music and not lyrics these days. Reznor’s songs resonated with so many not only because of the music but because he was speaking to the disenfranchised with his lyrics. These days Reznor isn’t really the disaffected, pained guy that he once was. Hearing him sing “Head Like A Hole” these days seems a bit much. But hearing him re-imagine that youthful angst and pain into something new and refreshing is quite the thing. What he’s doing here is nothing short of brilliant.

And I’m not even half way through.

These are just gut reactions, folks. There will be a proper review. But for now I’m giving a resounding JHubner73 thumbs up. This record is absolutely stunning. If any of this kind of interests you, grab a copy while you still can. It will only be available on vinyl, with no digital release at all. Maybe he’ll drop some flash drives in various dirty men’s toilets throughout North America and Europe for shits and giggles with the album on it, but that’s it.

Time for another rum and coke and see what else awaits.