Nine Inch Nails
Pretty Hate Machine
TVT Records, 1989
Perhaps one of the most interesting and unique musical figures to emerge from the 90s industrial scene, Trent Reznor, the sole member of industrial 'rock' band Nine Inch Nails, has become a household name, as well as one of the most popular and renowned music producers of all time. Of course, this was not always so. Before reaching superstardom with his 1994 release The Downwards Spiral
, Trent lived a rather simple life as a janitor at Right Track Recording Studio. He would often take advantage of his position of cleaner and caretaker to use the old recording equipment, eventually developing his own demo tape. On this tape, he managed to be the sole performer, playing each instrument himself as well as mixing and orchestrating each of the six songs he created. Using this demo tape, Trent eventually managed to get many offers from various record companies. Eventually settling with TVT Records, a fairly unknown company at the time, Trent began producing and creating his first album under the alias 'Nine Inch Nails'. Taking inspiration from his depressing and dark lyrical subject matter, Trent decided to name this album Pretty Hate Machine
, not knowing that it would soon become a staple in the fledgling industrial music scene.
Musically, this album is quite genre bending, with Trent taking inspiration from 80s synth pop bands, and giving otherwise cheerful keyboard romps much darker tones and textures. Aside from 'Sin', which borders on a techno song, every tune here contains dark, low key synth sweeps and flourishes. 'Thats What I Get' has a very interesting synth-drum intro that makes great use of flangers and other sound-bending techniques, while 'Head Like A Hole' has a powerful, driving keyboard line that propels the whole song forwards and gives the tune a dark tone. The use of keyboards in this fashion would eventually become a staple of the industrial genre, with Trent eventually evolving his technique into creating impenetrable walls of sheer sound as well as eerie atmospheric backdrops. Drum machines and catchy bass lines act as powerful rhythmic devices beneath the furious keyboards. 'Head Like A Hole', 'Sanctified', and 'That's What I Get' all have great drum beats as well as powerfully dark bass lines. Overall, this album proves to be very interesting musically, with Trent displaying his virtuosity behind many instruments as well as his showcasing his great producing techniques.
Unlike the music, the songwriting here is not particularly interesting or innovative, with most of the lyrics dealing with depressing subjects such drug abuse, nihilism, and jealousy. It can be compared lyrically to The Downwards Spiral
, possibly acting as the younger, less mature cousin. Trent's vocal delivery accompanies the lyrics quite well. He manages to sound bitter and angry, with the occasional sinister whispering ('Something I Can Never Have'). Although he is not a particularly strong singer, the emotion he pours into the powerful, often screamed choruses ('Head Like A Hole', 'Kinda I Want To') adds to the overall aggressive nature of the music.
While most songs here manage to be interesting and unique, there are several that seemingly come across as lazy or uninspired. 'The Only Time', despite its interesting bass and drum beat, is rather boring with an almost laughably hilarious chorus. 'Down In It' simply comes across as a decent dance song, despite it's interesting lyrics and catchy beat. Both 'Ringfinger' and 'Sin' have very upbeat keyboards that seemingly try to mimic techno, and simply appear to be annoying.
Despite it's numerous flaws, Pretty Hate Machine
manages to be a great musical achievement, kickstarting Trent Reznor's career as well as helping create the whole industrial music genre. For those who wish to hear a rawer, simpler Nine Inch Nails, this is without a doubt the album for you.
-Head Like A Hole
-That's What I Get
-Something I Can Never Have