Nine Inch Nails Spotlight – “Pretty Hate Machine”

Never as good as the first time?   Back in the late 80s, Trent Reznor was working as a janitor at a recording studio and during free moments was able to mess around and record his own material.   Ever the perfectionist, Trent did it all – write, produce, play guitar and synthesizer, dropping beats and turned it into a bootleg album that eventually became his band, Nine Inch Nails debut LP, “Pretty Hate Machine”.   The landmark release crossed music genres, defied the status quo, and broke down the walls of sexuality in rock music.   Depeche Mode with an Industrial sound?   It was amplified New Wave mixed with Punk.    You could head bang and pack a dance floor at the same time with songs like “Head Like A Hole”.   The combination of catchy choruses with muscular electronica beats that knocked your skull around was ground-breaking for the era.   Let’s take a look back at 1989’s “Pretty Hate Machine” by Nine Inch Nails.

“HEAD LIKE A HOLE”      The biggest hit on the album became a club anthem and a heavy rotation music video on MTV’s “Alternative Nation”.   How can not get pumped up hearing the call to arms in the opening moments – “Bow down before the one you serve……I’d rather die that give you control, you’re gonna get what you deserve”.  Trent acknowledges the song was inspired by his love of the Industrial Metal band, Ministry.


“TERRIBLE LIE”    A funky track that takes aim at religion and even Santa Claus.  Midway through the song, the beats become a frenzied chaotic yet mesmerizing chant.   Best line – “My skin is begging you, please, I am on my hands and knees”.

“DOWN IN IT”     The album’s first single and one of the most underrated tracks in Nine Inch Nail’s discography.   Inspired by the band, Skinny Puppy, NIN delivered a dance club smash that even has Trent rapping a nursery rhyme in it.  The powerful song was made famous by the death scene in the video that got the FBI investigating the authenticity.

“SANCTIFIED”    The bass line on “Sanctified” is sick!   A hypnotic sexual track with a Gothic vibe featuring lyrics like “As she walks me through the nicest parts of hell (bitch).  I still dream of lips I never should have kissed. Well she knows exactly what I can’t resist”

“SOMETHING I CAN NEVER HAVE”    A precursor to songs like “Hurt”, Trent takes things way down with a sparse piano arrangement and a haunting chorus that digs deep into your psyche.

“KINDA I WANT TO”    An often overlooked track but one of the most accessible rockers on the album that would’ve been the ultimate song for an action movie scene.

“SIN”    One of the most explicit music videos of all-time was banned on MTV for the hardcore nudity.    Trent was always open about his sexuality and this one screams “Pure Sex” – which was explored further in their biggest hit, “Closer”.

“THAT’S WHAT I GET”     If you learn one lesson here, Trent Reznor does kiss and tell.   A scathing intense breakup anthem about a lover who did Reznor wrong.

“THE ONLY TIME”     Combine this one with “Sin” and you’ve got two of the most in-your-face seductive songs of the era.   “The Only Time” sounds ahead of its time and you can traces of this one in Nine Inch Nails’ later albums.   Craziest line:  “while the Devil wants to F**k me in the back of his car”.

“RINGFINGER”    An amalgamation of all of the influences on the album’s closer.  You can hear a lot of Depeche Mode here and the song’s closing orgasmic moments are a fitting conclusion to a powerful album.