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Nine Inch Nails

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Nine Inch Nails Pretty Hate Machine album cover
3.44 | 127 ratings | 9 reviews | 14% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1989

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Head Like a Hole (5:00)
2. Terrible Lie (4:39)
3. Down in It (3:46)
4. Sanctified (5:48)
5. Something I Can Never Have (5:55)
6. Kinda I Want To (4:33)
7. Sin (4:06)
8. That's What I Get (4:30)
9. The Only Time (4:47)
10. Ringfinger (5:41)

Total Time 48:45

Bonus track on 2010 remaster:
11. Get Down Make Love (Queen cover) (4:19)

Line-up / Musicians

- Trent Reznor / composer, arranger, programming, performer (keyboards, drum machine, guitars, sampler) & co-producer

- Richard Patrick / drone guitar (4)
- Mark "Flood" Ellis / synth programming
- Tim Niemi / synth programming

Releases information

Artwork: Gary Talpas

LP TVT Records ‎- TVT 2610-1 (1989, US)

CD TVT Records ‎- 2610-2 (1989, US)
CD Rykodisc ‎- RCD 10836 (2005, US)
CD UMe ‎- B0015099-02 (2010, US) Remastered by Tom Baker with a bonus track; New cover art

Thanks to windhawk for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Buy NINE INCH NAILS Pretty Hate Machine Music

NINE INCH NAILS Pretty Hate Machine ratings distribution

(127 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(14%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(40%)
Good, but non-essential (28%)
Collectors/fans only (13%)
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)

NINE INCH NAILS Pretty Hate Machine reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars NIN is the industrial vehicle for American singer/musician Trent Raznor. If we have to give the man credit for one thing it is for bringing the industrial avant-rock that had been thriving in the 80's underground scene to the masses. But the praise he gets for being innovative or even progressive is entirely misplaced, caused by lack of knowledge of the real pioneers that preceded him. Saying NIN is progressive is like claiming Microsoft invented the PC.

It would be a bit of a stretch to provide a background into the industrial music of the 80's here, as it was a very active and creative scene. But I sure need to mention important industrial dance acts such as Cabaret Voltaire and Front 242, and the more noisy industrial pioneers such as Foetus, Coil, Ministry and Einstürzende Neubauten. They all served Raznor as a source of inspiration. Even his inclusion of funky bass loops and poppy hooks is entirely copied from another band, namely My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, who debuted the year before.

So where it concerns originality, innovation and progressiveness, I have to give this album a big zero. But that's only one of many way to look at an album. The actual quality of the songs is quite high. Obviously, you shouldn't look for musicianship or harmonic splendour here. This music goes by other ethics such as the intensity of its alienated feel, the harshness of its sound, the aggression of the beats and the shout-along capability of the material. Quite a bit of similarities with metal actually :)

Raznor sure excels in the virtues expected in this genre and combines it with a knack for a good tune. He manages to keep the album varied and engaging for its entire course. In the early 90's I was a huge fan of the 80's scene that paved the way for NIN, so the fact that I can trace each track back to its main influence will forever spoil the experience for me. All in all, it's a fine album that has turned out to be quite important in rock history.

This is music from a scene as alien to Prog as rap is to folk, but it kind of touches avant-garde and RIO. Still, I'd rather review the real thing, the original bands who broke the ground instead of this second tier band who only popularized it. 2.5 stars

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Trent Reznor and his Industrial Metal project Nine Inch Nails gained mass popularity during the '90s but it all started with the 1989 release Pretty Hate Machine. Unlike most of his later releases, this one is not as widely available which most probably has to do with it being released by an independent record label called TVT Records. Fortunately I managed to spot it in one of the down town's used record stores somewhere around 2001-02. Not knowing anything about Nine Inch Nails at the time I basically picked this album off the shelf with a hope of getting my money's worth.

I'm happy to say that I did in fact get more than the cheap album price initially made me assume. This debut album contains 10 pretty decent Industrial Metal tracks ranging from the heavy hitting album opener Head Like A Hole and down to subtile atmospheric music of Something I Can Never Have. These two extremes also happen to be my two personal picks from the album, showing me that Trent Reznor's music has never been about taking the middle ground. This by no means that the rest of material is average, in fact it's all quite excellent and does a perfect job of creating a smooth album flow all throughout the material.

I can't say that Pretty Hate Machine was an eye-opening album for me since I've so far not heard another full length Nine Inch Nails release, but I blame that mainly on me wanting to preserve the perfection of this self-sufficient experience without comparing it to some of Trent Reznor 's later albums. I guess that some of the later singles I've heard did play a part in this decision as well. Even if it's not an album I play all too often, Pretty Hate Machine has definitely withstood the test of time and will continue to uphold a respectable place in my music collection. This music is hardly progressive or original, but for me that's not really an issue when the songwriting bar is set so high.

***** star songs: Head Like A Hole (4:59) Something I Can Never Have (5:54)

**** star songs: Terrible Lie (4:38) Down In It (3:46) Sanctified (5:48) Kinda I Want To (4:33) Sin (4:06) That's What I Get (4:30) Ringfinger (5:40)

*** star songs: The Only Time (4:47)

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars While not technically a prog rock album, Trent Reznor's debut Nine Inch Nails album is a brilliant blend of angst ridden pop music and hard edged industrial noise music. Sometimes criticized for not being as hard core as Einstürzende Neubauten, Throbbing Gristle and the like, Reznor managed to create a near masterpiece, for being able to combine hard-edged metallic sounds with enough finesse to make it listenable to a wide audience.

The bass is pumped and the beat is emphasized, making this album a club favorite at the time, yet still, there is enough going on in each song to bring me back for a listen when I feel I need that sort of attitude adjustment.

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars This album has not aged well. Trent Reznor does almost everything here on the debut from NIN. The music here sounds like a mix of synth-pop and industrial. Very electronic sounding compared to later stuff which has more bass, guitar and piano. "Head Like A Hole" is a classic but even it sounds tame and dated now. This song has an awesome bass synth riff. Some kind of tribal singing here and there. The part that goes "bow down before the one you serve" is good. I like the "huh" vocals at the end.

"Sanctified" is a highlight. Great bass line. Nice atmospheric synths. Good guitar and effects in the chorus. At 3:18 you hear some Gregorian chant style vocal sounds. Things pick up when the electronic snare drum comes in near the end. I've always loved how this song seques into the next via a spacey, atmospheric part. Then there is some beautiful piano that starts "Something I Can Never Have", a ballad. Great atmospheric synth in the background. During the chorus where you hear "you make this all go away", there is a synthetic banging sound in one channel and a synthetic handclap sound in the other.

"Kinda I Want To" has an interesting percussion part in the middle. "That's What I Get" has a great bridge/middle eight. Pretty Hate Machine is soon to be re-released in a remastered version. You can currently stream the new reissue on the NME website. It includes a cover of the Queen song "Get Down, Make Love" which was originally a B-side to the single for "Sin". I streamed the album so I could here this cover(I have PHM on cassette but nothing to play it on). While listening to the stream, I figured I might as well do a review of the album.

"Get Down, Make Love" is nowhere as good as the original. There is somebody talking at the beginning. Then you hear Al Jourgenson say "Yes!" from the Ministry song "Stigmata", along with a woman moaning from a porn flick. At the end you hear samples of different Queen songs, including "Get Down, Make Love" itself as well as "We Will Rock You". I have to comment on the new remastering: it's awful! For example, there is a whispered voice in "Sanctified" that is now just as loud as the rest of the vocals. Overall, not a bad album from 1989. Possibly the worst NIN album although With Teeth is not too far behind. 2 stars.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Bearing a close resemblance to a much more synthesiser-focused and guitar-light version of Ministry's Land of Rape and Honey, the debut album of Nine Inch Nails/Trent Reznor may not be the most original industrial album out there but it's certainly one of the catchiest ones. Reznor proves to be an adept and skilled judge of the use of sounds, both musical and those which would be regarded traditionally as unmusical, to create a complete sonic landscape, from the anger that dominates most of the tracks to the frustration and sorrow captured in Something I Can Never Have.

Whilst it might not be devastatingly original in terms of the industrial music ideas it uses, it is unique in the extent to which it transforms what had been an austere and somewhat unapproachable genre into a compelling and accessible format. Some may sneer at it, but I think it's a great listen.

Review by Chicapah
4 stars While it doesn't keep me awake at night (few things can) I do wonder why many reviewers have issues with Nine Inch Nails being tagged progressive. One of the definitions of the word is "continuing by successive steps" and Trent Reznor's musical concoctions fit comfortably into that description. Face it, all musicians/songwriters stand on someone's shoulders and when King Solomon wrote that there's nothing new under the sun he wasn't just whistlin' Dixie. It's the very nature of civilized man to often recognize not the inventor but the charismatic pioneer who best took the idea and made it practical and/or accessible to the masses. In other words, don't slight Reznor for taking what other artists were dabbling in and framing it in a format that John Q. Public considered "cool." Those that dwell in the rock & roll penthouses didn't come up with the genre; they just made it irresistible to the average guy and gal. Basically put, Trent saw the potential in industrial rock and seized the moment to mold it into something that appeared to be new. That's progressive creativity at its core.

I have a lot of admiration for folks who disregard long odds and figure out a way to do what they feel they were meant to do by any means necessary. In the 70s one of my closest friends longed to be a studio engineer but had no degree other than the one he'd earned from the school of hard knocks by spending years as a sound tech for club bands. He took a job mopping floors at a Dallas recording facility, absorbed everything he could from the pros that came through the door and eventually got into the control room. He's now one of the top engineers in the southwest. Reznor took a similar route. He, too, took a menial position as a studio's janitor and bartered for free time in the wee hours of the morning when the place was deserted to hone his craft. The result was a demo called "Purest Feeling" and it got him a record deal with an independent label. The lesson is that all things are possible if you're willing to stoop to do whatever it takes. Giving his one-man outfit the catchy title of Nine Inch Nails, Trent reworked his rough tracks and added a few more to produce his debut, "Pretty Hate Machine," releasing it on October 20, 1989 as the strange 80s came to a close.

"Head Like a Hole" is the opener and it's the song that initially drew me into Reznor's universe. I've always been keen on discovering fresh music and this ferocious number was exciting stuff, indeed. The tune's crawling synth riff is so menacing it put me in a deer-in-the-headlights trance and the uncompromised honesty in Trent's voice made it realistic and impossible to turn away from. Being a born-again Christian you'd think that his uncensored, vitriolic lyrics would be off-putting to me but I'm not at all intimidated by the rantings of a tortured soul because I used to be one. I can relate to his skewered outlook and even agree with him more often than you'd predict. Here he warns those who consider wealth to be their entitlement that "God money don't want everything, he wants it all." Amen. "Terrible Lie" is more dramatic and features needle-sharp accents that pinch and tear. Reznor's approach is subtler here but his voice retains all the inflamed bitterness that's essential to getting his message across. He addresses God directly with "There's nothing left for me to hide/I lost my ignorance, security and pride/I'm all alone in a world you must despise" and that's not far off the mark. A busy drum track boils underneath "Down In It," supporting his spoken-word verses that drip with edgy sarcasm. "Everything I never liked about you is kind of seeping into me/I try to laugh about it now/but isn't it funny how everything works out/I guess the joke's on me, she said," he wryly intones. The repeated chorus with its echoing rally-at-Nuremburg synthesized chant is slightly terrifying and oddly enticing at the same time.

A semi-world beat, rhythmic beginning to "Sanctified" is soon reinforced by a strong funk bass line and the track's subdued atmosphere provides a change of pace at this point. A recurring theme in this album concerns the mysterious spell that lust/love casts over a man's psyche. "I still dream of lips I never should have kissed/well, she knows exactly what I can't resist," he sings. The monks-in-a-monastery-on-acid interlude is an inspired moment. The song segues into "Something I Can Never Have" where a cavernous space opens up in the background behind Trent's restrained voice. Hot steam and sheet metal percussion effects are ominous and by now it's obvious that Reznor was intent on bringing novel, transfixing sounds to the prog rock table. The tune's nightmare-ish aura is captivating as he cries, "This thing is slowly taking me apart/grey would be the color if I had a heart." The pseudo hip-hop groove below "Kinda I Want It" is misleading for this is anything but happy dance music. The cut's motif allows him to experiment with an array of mechanical and electronically-conceived noises and devices that I find fascinating. From there he slides seamlessly into "Sin" (as we all do sometimes), where a disco-in-hell pounding bass drum drives an exercise in intensity as he angrily spews out contradictory lines like "I gave you my Purity/My Purity you stole." Yet Trent never loses sight of the difference tactfully-placed dynamics make in music no matter the genre and that's the mark of an aural artist.

Brittle synths set the stage for "That's What I Get" before the landscape widens for his in-your-face vocal. A technique that's one of the most interesting aspects of NIN is the contrast of an unadorned human voice in juxtaposition to artificial instrumentation. Here he expresses the universal angst of the jilted with "Why does it come as a surprise/to think that I was so naïve/maybe didn't mean that much/but it meant everything to me," he sings. The album receives a real jolt of energy from "The Only Time." Its infectious funk establishes the heavy, unrelenting feel of a dangerous undertow and Reznor employs alien sounds I'd never heard before in a way that forced me to pay strict attention to what he's creating. He's not just tossing buckets of paint on a canvas willy-nilly; this is intelligent and well-designed material. Most of us can empathize with his line of "My moral standing is lying down." Another pulsating bass drum lays down a monotonous pattern for him to layer electric colors on top of in the finale, "Ringfinger." A stinging guitar is wielded like a chainsaw to cut through the song's glossy veneer, supercharging the tune's persona. His "relation frustration" rears its scarred head one last time to spit out "If I was twice the man I could be/I'd still be half of what you need" before the disc ends with what sounds like a disastrous short circuit.

Here's the deal. "Pretty Hate Machine" may not be your idea of time well spent but dull or condescending it ain't. I admit that it has all the earmarks of a roughly-hewn debut but one can't deny the raw enthusiasm contained in nearly every song that captured the interest of millions worldwide as the 90s got under way. It's a good album, all things considered. It peaked at #75 but, more significantly, it roamed the Billboard 200 chart for 113 weeks, making it one of the first indie label releases to go platinum so it's fair to say that Trent struck a nerve and filled a need with his creations. Three and a half stars.

Latest members reviews

4 stars Pretty Hate Machine doesn't sound like a debut album, and in truth this is because it isn't. Nine Inch Nails' main creative force and sole constant band member Trent Reznor had actually recorded an entire album's worth of songs before this album, but the recordings were shelved and to this day haven ... (read more)

Report this review (#1434348) | Posted by CassandraLeo | Friday, July 3, 2015 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Dark, brooding, and emotional, Trent Reznor broke onto the music scene with his 1989 album titled Pretty Hate Machine. he envisioned for a band that would, using metallic undertones to bring out a more righteous clang to his point, make points of sociopolitical commentary. This album was writt ... (read more)

Report this review (#1365226) | Posted by aglasshouse | Monday, February 9, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is the second album here I've given five stars that isn't really prog at all, but just like "The Bends" this one deserves it nonetheless. People didn't really notice Pretty Hate Machine at the time of its release, and even now I don't think it's gotten the attention and acclaim it deserves, ... (read more)

Report this review (#276039) | Posted by CinemaZebra | Friday, April 2, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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