Pretty Hate Machine
Originally published in CMJ on December 1, 1990
In a more perfect world, a record like Pretty Hate Machine, with its catchy pop-industrial hybrid tunes, would rule college radio, clubs and eventually top 40 playlists. Yet somehow we get the feeling that the masses aren't quite prepared for a project as innovative and ambitious as this pack of Nine Inch Nails. The Cleveland-based outfit strikes into truly uncharted territory: dance/ethereal/industrial/pop/rock, with more emotional (read: real) singing than a thousand Nitzer Ebbs could muster. Head Nail Trent Reznor has penned some dark, bitter songs that are the staple of the genre ("Head Like A Hole," for example: "Head like a hole/Black as a soul/I'd rather die/Than give you control"). Rather than sinking into the muck of self-pity, Reznor creates catchy, ironic, static-y melodies with the help of Flood, Keith LeBlanc, Adrian Sherwood and John Fryer - all the cream of the DOR and industrial crop. With Reznor's heartfelt and nasal vox (kinda like The Cure's Robert Smith with a head cold) leading the way, Nine Inch Nails could be the first hard-edged techno-pop group to find its way to mass appeal as well as critical acclaim. Nail these to the wall: "Down In It" (available on maxi-single with loads of remixes), "Ringfinger," "Sin" and "Sanctified."
Transcribed by Keith Duemling