Review : Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine
PitchforkFor reasons I won't get into here, my little brother spent the first couple weeks of ninth grade in a Baltimore psych ward. While he was in there, he desperately wanted one of his tapes, and that tape was Pretty Hate Machine, an album already a few years old at that point. Rather than bringing it to him, my dad decided to listen to it, making it about 90 seconds in-- to the first "Bow down before the one you serve/ You're going to get what you deserve" bit on "Head Like a Hole"-- before deciding the album was Satanic and throwing it in the trash. I tried arguing the point with him ("No, dad, he's talking about money! Listen to it!"), but he didn't budge. For much of the 1990s, Pretty Hate Machine was that type of album: One that could inspire fervent, devotional need and absolute revulsion, largely depending on the age of the person hearing it. And that's even more impressive when you consider that it's basically a synth-pop album.
The greatest trick Trent Reznor ever pulled was convincing the world he was the devil. With his biblical-phallic band name, his reportedly furious early live shows, his fishnets worn as sleeves, Reznor staked out a position for himself on the Alice Cooper shock-rock continuum. Reznor certainly talked a big game about his industrial influences, even taking part in the Wax Trax! collective Pigface, but it wasn't the punishing megaphone-addled arm of industrial that most informed Reznor's debut album; it was the genre's nascent new-wave period. Scene kings Ministry, after all, started out as floppy-haired New Romantics. And so, for that matter, did Reznor himself; Google Exotic Birds sometime.
Reznor would progress further into scraping roar not long later; 1992's "Wish" was certainly no Depeche Mode song. But Pretty Hate Machine is haunted, synthetic dance-pop through and through. The beats have muscle, but it's not metal muscle or pigfuck muscle or even post-punk muscle. "Head Like a Hole", the big hit, is probably the most rock thing on the whole album, but even that song opens with "Heart of Glass"-esque percussion ripples before the drum machine thunder and weird hooting noises come in. "Terrible Lie" is built on synth-scrapes that, in less distorted form, could've shown up on a New Order single, and "Sin" likewise has a whole lot of "Blue Monday" in its DNA. Whenever a verse ends during "Kinda I Want To", we get a quick little reptilian disco synth-fight. Glacial new-age keyboard tones abound, and big nasty guitars really don't. And Reznor knew how to mine this form for all the emotional catharsis it was worth, which was a lot....full text
It is common knowledge that Trent Reznor is basically the only official member of NIN. In other words, Trent alone can be credited with bringing Industrial to the mainstream. Michael Trent Reznor (yes, Trent is his middle name that he went by to avoid being confused with his father) comes from a lifetime of dealing with computers/music. He played many instruments while growing up including saxaphone, piano, and tuba. He spent one year at Allegheny majoring in computer science and music, but dropped out to pursue music full time. He selected industrial as his point of interest because it allowed him to create heavy music while still working heavily with electronics. Trent formed and played with many bands, most of which were small time and local bands. After playing many gigs Trent finally settled down in 1988 to create his own brand of Ministry and Skinny Puppy influenced music. Initially, he had hoped to produce a simple 12" single on a European label. But after a number of american lables got a hold of that single, nearly every one offered him a record deal. He ended up signing with TVT, who would go on to release Pretty Hate Machine in 1989. That leads us to the review.
Head Like a Hole - 5/5
A true classic. Head Like a Hole is the heaviest song on the album, and probably the best as well. It starts off with a nice quick rhythm, and breaks into the chorus which proves some of the catchiest NIN lyrics ever. Hell, "bow down before the one you serve, you're going to get what you deserve" is pretty one of the more famous lyric lines period. This song should never be skipped, especially since it's the first song. a kickass way to start an album
Terrible Lie - 3.75/5
As well as the tracks after it, Terrible Lie shows more of the Industrial than the metal sied of Trent. It's a pretty slow track, with the title repeated over and over in the chorus with evident rage. As a whole, it's got a pretty gloomy sound. It's not too bad, but an obvious change in pace after Head Like a Hole. for some reason, this song always makes me think of germs - maybe it's just the Weird Al parody....full text
Entopia2002Trent Reznor was barely in his 20s when Pretty Hate Machine surfaced, a result of his previous new wave band's failure. Instead of carrying on with new wave, he ditched it for a constantly progressing derivative called "industrial". At the time, industrial was limited mostly to German innovators and sparse North American interest hubs (such as Vancouver). Despite his age, he managed to do something none of his predecessors could: bring industrial music to a wider audience. Taking most of his influence from glam alternative such as David Bowie, new wavers Kraftwerk and Gary Numan, and mixing it with industrial legends like Skinny Puppy, Nine Inch Nails' unique and overwhelming synthesizers compose the majority of their melodies.
Reznor did it all; songwriter, guitarist, keyboardist, singer, and incredible arranger. At times, Pretty Hate Machine shows its amateur creator's technical faults, sounding as if it were just Reznor and his synth keyboard in his basement. Other times, it shows signs of what Nine Inch Nails would become: full of aggressive and violent anthems of teenage angst. While it may not be nearly as polished and ambient as their later efforts, Pretty Hate Machine is still a treat to listen to, even at its most empty and flawed. That may even be part of its charm.
"Head Like a Hole" is, to this day, one of Nine Inch Nails' biggest hits, and for good reason. It begins with the very Skinny Puppy-esque opening measures and turns into what will become a series of eerie and rich synth riffs, each one completely different and effective as the next. "Head Like a Hole" focuses on religion and money as society's focal points--already touchy subjects--but is only a precursor to their following messages of anarchy, depression, and loss. "Terrible Lie," about being left alone, has simply the best synth work on the whole album, emphasized by the quiet lyrics and a frank chorus repeating the title. The bridge after verses is particularly chilling, when Reznor cries: "Don't tear away from me, I want you to hold onto." This sense of reality has become his trademark; he does a wonderful job of bringing his listeners into his edgy moods....full text
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