Album Review: Nine Inch Nails – “Pretty Hate Machine”

Trent Reznor, under the name Nine Inch Nails, released his first album, Pretty Hate Machine, in 1989. While the album may not have been a mainstream release at that time, it has since gone on to become a classic alternative rock album.


Pretty Hate Machine opens with “Head Like a Hole,” which was released as a single from the album. This song really sets the tone for the album: dark, loud, and angry. This song also has many of the themes that run through the music released by Nine Inch Nails over the years. The music video for “Head Like a Hole” is also a masterpiece in its own right.

The next song is “Terrible Lie,” which segues directly from “Head Like a Hole.” In the lyrics, the speaker is questioning God, asking why his world is so bad, and how it feels like a “terrible lie” to him. Next is “Down in It,” which was another single from the album. It’s another song about despair, with the speaker saying how they “used to be somebody” and they “used to have something inside.”

“Sanctified” is the next song on Pretty Hate Machine. It’s one of the “slower” songs on the album. The lyrics are from the point of view of a speaker wondering about a relationship that they are in. “Something I Can Never Have” is a more “minimal” song on the album, and in the lyrics, the speaker is yearning for something that they can never have.

The next song on Pretty Hate Machine is “Kinda I Want To.” With this song, the album picks the tempo back up from the previous two songs. In the lyrics, the speaker admits that they know that something they want to do isn’t right, but they think they want to do it, anyway. This is followed by “Sin,” another single from Pretty Hate Machine. This is a song where the speaker is essentially describing a dysfunctional romantic relationship.

“That’s What I Get” is the next song on the album. It’s a slower song, and it’s about someone who has been cheated on in a relationship. Next is “The Only Time,” which is another song dealing with a relationship. Pretty Hate Machine closes with “Ringfinger,” which is a song dealing with a relationship, but it incorporates a bit of religious imagery into the lyrics.

Even though Trent Reznor has gone on to record more albums over his career under the Nine Inch Nails name, I still believe that Pretty Hate Machine is one of the best albums he ever released.

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