Tomorrow night, we here at Rust Is Just Right are heading up to the wastelands of southern Washington, which means our readers will soon see an end to the mentions of a tour we’ve been talking about since the beginning of this site. That’s right, the mega-tour of 90’s powerhouse co-headliners Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails is making its way to the Portland area (without the initially-invited Death Grips, however). Though we saw both of these acts on their own respective tours last year, we were suitably impressed with their comeback performances that it was a no-brainer to shell out the big bucks to see these guys once again, if only for the possibility of a few changes to the setlist. To that end, we would like to formally request for Trent Reznor to dig deep and play some cuts from The Fragile at tomorrow’s show.
Nine Inch Nails became superstars with the critical and commercial success of 1994’s The Downward Spiral (the album whose twentieth anniversary is nominally the impetus for this tour), but it wasn’t until they released its follow-up The Fragile in 1999 that I climbed aboard the bandwagon. I was too young to appreciate TDS when it came out–it was simply too dark and scary for a kid who was still in elementary school, and I remember just seeing glimpses of the “Closer” video gave me nightmares (it didn’t occur to me that there was an actual song behind the video that could be played on the radio until years later). I had none of these issues when The Fragile came out, and even though it’s a behemoth of a double album, I enjoyed devouring and analyzing the music for hours on end.
The reputation of The Fragile has suffered a bit over the years due to comparisons to the ridiculous sales numbers of The Downward Spiral, and this analysis has cast a shadow onto the album’s artistic merits as a result, with many now concluding that it doesn’t measure up as a worthy successor. I would argue that as great as TDS is, it is with The Fragile that Trent Reznor truly proved his genius and bona fides as a composer. The album plays as an industrial rock symphony, with melodic ideas and figures that pop up in different variations throughout, giving a musical coherence to the work. Individual instruments are recorded with precision, providing ample space when required but also allowed to bleed together to create new gorgeous tones like a shoegaze record. Reznor also balances between natural and artificial tones with expert mixing both live and processed instrumentation. It is obvious to the listener that every second was planned and recorded with care, and the result is an album that even at its most brutal and devastating sounds absolutely gorgeous.
It looks that the band is playing a few of the usual suspects from this album on this tour, but I hope that Trent flips the script a bit and pulls off a couple of surprises. The crowd, which is full of diehards like me that grew up with The Fragile and listen to it on a regular basis, would go nuts if the band whipped out the epic instrumental “Just Like You Imagined” and lose their shit if they got to hear “Into the Void” once again. But I’ll be honest, the one song that I desperately want to hear is the one embedded above, the song that convinced me of the brilliance of Nine Inch Nails, “We’re In This Together”. I love the relentless drumbeat that drives the song, utilizing a trickier pattern than appears at first listen, I love the ever-evolving vocal melodies that emphasize and build on the emotions of the lyrics, but most of all, I love the fucking guitar in this song, especially one of the greatest noise-freakout solos I’ve ever heard. I realize the difficulty of putting all the elements of this song together live (which is why it’s only been done a handful of times), but I’m telling you, the fans would go crazy if it actually happened, and we will forgive any and all mistakes just for the gesture.
But don’t substitute “Gave Up”. That one is great.
And if the guys in Soundgarden are taking requests, please play “Tighter & Tighter”. It’s not necessary that you have Mike McCready come help you out, but we definitely would love it if he decided to help out on this one.