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— by Corey Moss, with additional reporting by Chris Harris

Trent Reznor looks back at his epic 1999 double album, The Fragile, with regret.

"The mistake I made was putting too much stuff on it," the Nine Inch Nails mastermind admitted. "The result is it became too dense to listen to. Some of my favorite things are on the second CD and I don't think anyone's made it to the second CD."

Billy Corgan, meanwhile, stops short of calling the Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness a mistake, but he echoes Reznor's sentiments.

"Many fans of the Pumpkins prefer the second album [Siamese Dream] over the third, which is the double CD, and my feeling is, if you actually broke just one record out of the Mellon Collie album, that would be considered our best album," he said. "The second album is more cohesive, whereas the third is this prowling kind of mass of feelings."

If making a double album was a gamble in the '90s, what is it now, in a world where millions download their music one song at a time? Absurd?

Perhaps. Which makes the fact that there's an abundance of new double albums all the more intriguing. On June 14, the Foo Fighters will release a double LP called In Your Honor, which hits stores on the heels of Ryan Adams' Cold Roses and the Eels' Blinking Lights and Other Revelations. And in January, Bright Eyes released two albums on the same day (Digital Ash in a Digital Urn and I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning), just as Nelly did last fall with Sweat and Suit.

As My Chemical Romance singer Gerard Way put it, "I'm glad bands are doing it, but it's a really brave move."

So what are these artists thinking?

"Everyone's got to do a double album at least once," said the Eels' E, as if quoting the unwritten laws of egomaniacal rock stars. "But remind me never to do it again, because it's just too hard."

An artist doing something simply because they can is hardly unheard of, but these days, musicians do seem to have their reasons for making double albums. As Bright Eyes and Nelly both did, the Foo Fighters are breaking up their albums by style.

"It's really like two separate albums, they just [are sold] together," Dave Grohl explained. "One of them is really aggressive, anthemic rock, and the other is beautiful, orchestrated, acoustic music. They wouldn't really mix together well, but we wanted to cover that much range."

Grohl first thought about making a double album when he downloaded his demos onto a hard drive and realized he had more than five hours of music.

"It's so much easier to go in and record a record these days," said singer Mike Herrera of MxPx, who demos up to 60 songs for each album. "People aren't spending as much money. Bands like the Foo Fighters have their own studio. In a way it might be a little risky, but in other ways, you got the songs anyway, they're recorded, so put 'em out."

For the Foo Fighters, it was a case of having the material and also just wanting to do something different.

"We've been a band for 10 years now, this is our fifth record, and I thought it would be boring to just keep making album after album and making videos and playing festivals," Grohl said. "I wanted to do something special."

Outkast, also 10 years into their career at the time, felt similarly about Speakerboxxx/ The Love Below, certainly the most successful double album in recent years.

"We wanted to establish an identity for Dre and me, that we can both stand on our own two feet as well as being a group," Big Boi said. "And it turned out real good."

With Blinking Lights and Other Revelations, an album E started several years ago, abandoned, and then restarted, he was simply following through on an idea.

"I wanted to make something that you had to feel more than think about, and I realized you needed some room to breathe to do that," he explained. "But it's not really that dense a situation. A lot of single discs are 60, 70 minutes now, some are almost 80 minutes. This is almost 90 minutes total with the two discs."

An interesting strategy, but not one widely supported.

NEXT: Artists may not realize that some of their stuff sucks, plus, how to make the anti-Fragile ...
Illustration: Karl Heitmueller

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The Smashing Pumpkins
"Tonight Tonight"
Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

Nine Inch Nails
"We're In This Together Now"
The Fragile

"Hey Ya!"
Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

System of a Down

"Hey Man (Now You're Really Living)"
Blinking Lights and Other Revelations

Bright Eyes
"First Day of My Life"
I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning