Pretty Hate Machine

Nine Inch Nails

TVT Records, 1989

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


In recent days, I've been chatting with "Eric E5S16" (sorry, Eric, but I don't know your last name) who runs a similar site to ours. He and I share the same love of music, and we've been using each other as springboards for ideas and future featured albums. A few days ago, Eric e-mailed me to ask my opinion of Nine Inch Nails.

It just so happened that I had my copy of the band's debut release Pretty Hate Machine in my car. So... road trip! .

For a first effort (especially one that redefined industrial music), Trent Reznor did quite well. However, there are times that one wishes that the album was a little angrier than it is.

Part of the problem I'm having is that I continually weigh Pretty Hate Machine against other albums in Nine Inch Nails's catalog - and that really isn't fair of me. But when the first thing you hear from the band is their 1992 EP Broken, it's very hard not to make comparisons. So, let's take this review with a grain of salt.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The album kicks off solidly with "Head Like A Hole," which features Reznor - as it does for most of the album - somewhat tuneful. His singing still goes a tad flat, but when he needs to be in tune, he hits it perfectly. Whether Reznor is singing about money controlling someone or another person playing that role I can't be positive - you could translate the song both ways. But it was a wake-up kick in the ass for a stagnating music industry at the time.

Most of the first side of Pretty Hate Machine continues in the same vein. "Terrible Lie," another song that lives on alternative radio, was a solid followup. Reznor, playing all the instruments himself, has to share the credit with the other four producers assisting him - including Flood. Without their assistance, this may still have sounded like Nine Inch Nails, but I think the power would have been somewhat weakened.

I especially like the throbbing bass line in "Sanctified," which dares to create a funk groove in industrial music. However, Reznor's first stab at a ballad, "Something I Can Never Have," really fails to do anything for me. (For that matter, I thought people made a big deal of "Hurt," the song which really broke Reznor into the mainstream two albums later.) It's here that I wish Reznor was a little angrier - something which may sound funny considering the darkness the lyrics already have.

The second side of Pretty Hate Machine is where the problems lie. Reznor is not able to keep the momentum going that he started. "Sin" is a decent track, as is "That's What I Get," but for the most part, side two pales in comparison. Sign number two as to why I wish there was more anger here.

Maybe part of the anger heard in later Nine Inch Nails releases was thanks in part to a lawsuit Reznor filed against TVT, claiming they were not giving him the artistic and financial freedom he was promised. TVT refused to let him out of the contract, causing Reznor to tour for almost three years in support of Pretty Hate Machine. (Some say this is why the album broke out so well.) But by the time Reznor did release new product, he was pissed with a capital "P".

Pretty Hate Machine is a decent enough primer for those not familiar with Nine Inch Nails, but in some senses it may be getting the listener ready for an even ruder wake-up call when the one-two punch to the gut of other albums eventually hits. Whatever the case, I'll be interested to hear what Eric thinks.

Rating: B-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of TVT Records, and is used for informational purposes only.