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Chicago Suntimes April 2000


The following article appeared in Chicago Suntimes Weekend Plus Section, critic, Jim DeRogatis

"This record will be huge or it will be a career stopper." Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, said of "The Fragile" shortly before its release. "It won't be safe." Sure enough, it wasn't (safe) and it was (a career stopper)

As sonic craftsman for his generation, Reznor is without peer. Five years in the making, "The Fragile" extended the electronic vocabulary the Cleveland native introduced wiht 1989's "Pretty Hate Machine" and 1994's "The Downward Spiral", integratting the organic sounds of grand pianos and electric guitars into his patented metal machine music.

Sure, he remained mired in self-pity in the lyrics (Most common words on the dis: "decay," "debris," and "defeat.") But the music was interesting enough that you could forgive him for his angst and self-obsession.

The sprawling sonic canvas was hailed by many critics - it was named the best release of 1999 by Spin - but alternative-rock-programmers couldn't be bothered to plumb its double-album depths for the hits; MTV was suddenly more fond of third-rate Nine Inch Nails knock-offs like Filter, and a newer, younger crop of fans were busy turning to Korn and Limp Bizkit at one end of the spectrum and 'NSync and Britney Spears at the other.

For once, Reznor's misery seems justified.

The question now is whether the band's tour can breathe new life into the album. The cross-country arena jaunt started April 12th with relatively little hype. Organized by a single national promoter, it is crisscrossing the country in scattershot fashion, preforming two dates in Chicago separated by six-day break. (Promoters usually schedule two dates in a row to save on teh considerable expense of hailing equipment and setting up a stage.)

Reznor and his reconstructed band - which is rounded out by Robin Fink, Danny Lohner, Charlie Clouser and Jerome Dillon - play the UIC Pavilion tonight and Wednesday. Neither show is sold out. But my hunch is that the group will indeed reclaim past glories - at least in terms of the legendary intensity of its stage show.

A Nnine Inch Nails show on Good Friday - that has to be some kind of an omen, no?

Jim DeRogatis co-hosts "Sound Opinions" rom 10 p.m. to midnight Tuesdays on WXRT-FM (93.1)

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