His own worst critic

Had I not done the journalistically-responsible duty of acquiring Nine Inch Nails’ previous albums before reviewing The Fragile, I probably would have raved about Trent Reznor’s latest opus.

Disclosure: I’ve heard of Reznor for years but didn’t seem to think his music was really aimed for me. It’s only out of curiosity for his unanimous acclaim as a studio magician that gave me the incentive to actually take the plunge.

And a studio magician he is. The Fragile is quite an achievement for a sprawling two-disc effort. And if it existed in a vacuum with no other Nine Inch Nails recording to precede it, a monument it would remain.

But Reznor has to contend with his worst gauge — himself. And while he could have zagged when people wanted him to zig, Reznor opted to work within Nine Inch Nails’ established paramters — heavy, distorted, textured, dramatic, electronic music.

Other critics have already arrived at the obvious conclusion, one lobbied at many a double album — there’s enough material there for one disc, not two.

And whatever Reznor was trying to accomplish over two discs with The Fragile he has already done on one with The Downward Spiral. (Can you believe that latter album was recorded when the World Wide Web was still in its infancy?)

But that obscures an underlying truth — even a second-rate Nine Inch Nails album is better than some of the best work of some really bad bands.

Which is to say you really can’t go wrong with a Nine Inch Nails album.