Friday, June 19, 2009

Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine (1989)

Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine (1989)

I've got to hand it to Trent that the man was definitely ahead of his time. Listening to Pretty Hate Machine 20 years after its release (20 already?!), it doesn't sound like a product of the 80's more of the mid-90's. But it really came out just at the end of the decade and left a huge mark on music as we know it, almost just as huge of an impact that Nirvana had on Alternative music. That doesn't necessarily mean that the album has held up well over the years, but it's still impressive.

A lot of the songs pack the punch that would later lead to the Industrial genre. "Head Like A Hole" is one of the best songs Nine Inch Nails ever recorded and is a great opener to the album. It's become the anthem of the 90's, the fight against the corporate machine and expression of never trusting that which is given to you. It sets the tone for the album right away and gets things going. Following song "Terrible Lie" keep things going at a heavy pace, taking inspiration from the other sounds of the 80's while gradually leading to a new genre of music as the album progresses. But most of the fun ends there.

Many of the songs are just to much of the more of the same. It's a shame that the originality that the album starts with doesn't transpose to the rest of it. "Down In It" quickly mucks things down, with a lame talk-rap in the middle of it that Reznor likes to riddle throughout the album. "Something I Can Never Have" also fails on many levels, just sounding corny and awkward in retrospect. It makes it hard to realize that this was such a revolutionary album at the time, but becoming the machine of Nine Inch Nails that would dominate the 90's. In retrospect it sounds more like a sign of things to come, a blueprint for the genre that was yet to be realized.

The one other shining spot on the album is the wonderful "Sin." Again, it's another track that goes to the dark side that Reznor may like to go to one too many times in his music for the sake of just selling albums, but the songs works so damn well that you can't hold it against the guy, just like most of Nine Inch Nails' best work (see: "Closer"). It's a sign of things to come, but for now it's a few great songs surrounded by a lot of mediocre ones. I gives a point for each good one and nothing for the whatever ones.

Standout Track: "Sin."
Overall Rating: 4.0


* Was out of print from 1997-2005 due to a falling out between Trent Reznor and publishing label TVT Records. Rykodisc remastered it for the 2005 release.

* Half of the album comes from demo entitled Purest Feeling.

* Trent Reznor famously recorded the whole album by himself while working as a janitor at Right Track Studio. During the night shifts he would develop his music and did most of the work on his own. He refused to record the album with a band, unheard of at the time.

* Reznor's original touring band consisted of Richard Patrick, future singer of Filter. He opened for The Jesus and Mary Chain.

* The booklet with the album includes lyrics that aren't part of the songs.

* The album's singles surprisingly did incredibly well on the Billboard top 100. Which list? The Hot Dance/Club Play, with "Sin" ranking the highest at No. 10.

* The reason Trent Reznor chose the name Nine Inch Nails was based on the fact that it could be abbreviated easily, despite rumors that have circulated stating relations to Jesus' Crucifixion or Freddy Krueger's nails.

* Trent Reznor likes to attach a number to all of Nine Inch Nail's releases under the name "Halo." This album is Halo Two, with Halo One being the being Pretty Hate Machine early imports. This was done so fans could keep the releases in order.

* In Trent's words, here is what the cover of Pretty Hate Machine is meant to resemble: "The cover of _PHM_ is a photo of the blades of some sort of turbine stretched vertically so they would look somewhat like bones or a ribcage."

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