Bow Down Before The One You Serve

Jul 16, 2012 (Updated Jul 16, 2012)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Lyrics, overall sound, vocals, almost everything

Cons:That's What I Get

The Bottom Line: God Money, I'll do anything for you


Trent Reznor has become a prominent name in the music industry that people have come to love or hate over time. On one hand, he delivered iconic albums such as Pretty Hate Machine, Downward Spiral, and The Fragile which have influenced many modern acts and will be remembered in the years to come. On the other hand, he is the man who is constantly in the news for battling with the music industry, the guy who gets ripped by older heads for not truly being “industrial,” and the person who creates various soundtracks to movies and videogames such as The Social Network and Quake. Whether you like or dislike Trent Reznor, you have to respect him for what he has done musically. Performing under the name Nine Inch Nails, he has created a musical entity that has spawned a countless number of LPs/EPs/Singles/Remix albums, has won two Grammy awards, and is a multi-instrumentalist. Even though Nine Inch Nails has a touring band which is more of a revolving door of musicians, Reznor is the only person (usually) who composes/writes/performs his music in the recording studio. For one man to be such a perfectionist and also be talented enough to pull his ideas together successfully, any true musician has to admire that about him. Pretty Hate Machine is the debut album of Nine Inch Nails (NIN) and is an enjoyable collection of industrial/dance/electronic songs.

Pretty Hate Machine contains a few quintessential songs by NIN including Head Like A Hole, Terrible Lie, and Sin. These tracks are often marked with heavy guitar and electronic effects, angry yet well written lyrics, and Trent’s authoritative and emotional voice. Head Like A Hole is undoubtedly NIN’s most well known song off the album and for good reason. An ode to “God Money,” this song details the influence money has over people and builds up into an adrenaline pumping chorus. Terrible Lie resembles the thoughts of a man who is down on his luck in life and won’t take it anymore. Cursing the heavens, this song is an all out angst fest which clears everything off Mr. Reznor’s chest. Listeners who get offended easily by lyrics may want to avoid this track unfortunately, but it is one of the album’s best songs and has an electronic breakdown at the end that is one of the top three moments on the record. Sin begins with a synth heavy intro that progresses into a danceable drum and keyboard rhythm. Sin is one of the many introspective songs about his previous relationships on the album and leaves a mark on listeners. Pretty Hate Machine is primarily filled with these types of songs with exceptions such as Head Like A Hole, Terrible Lie, and Down In It; but Sin is easily one of the best songs Trent wrote for the album pertaining to this subject.

Equally impressive as the music on the album are the song lyrics. The best song lyrically, in my opinion, is the album’s closing song Ringfinger. “Well you’ve got me working so hard lately/ working my hand until they bleed/ if I was twice the man I could be/ I’d still be half of what you need.” Those lyrics have such little self-esteem within them and are sung in such an angry self-defeated tone that it is tough to ignore what is being said on this track. “Wrap my arms in bandages/ confessions, I see through/ I get everything I want when I get part of you.”  Ringfinger is definitely a high mark on Pretty Hate Machine. Other lyrically strong songs include Sanctified and Something I Can Never Have. Sanctified in particular has one of my favorite lyrical images on the album with, “Heaven’s just a rumor she’ll dispel/ As she walks me through the nicest parts of Hell.” I still think of those lyrics (as well as Ringfinger’s) when I think back upon first listening to this album. The entire album is solid lyrically but there are more than a few standout songs in this department on Pretty Hate Machine.

Sadly though, Pretty Hate Machine is not a flawless album. There is one song on this album that I can honestly say never grew on me and that I don’t like. This tiny speed bump on an otherwise amazing album would be That’s What I Get. This song has the sappiest lyrics about an unfaithful woman I have heard in a while and not even Trent’s vocals or the great instrumentation can make up for it. This whole song sounds like a pitiful “poor me” type song that I could do without. I am a big fan of Nine Inch Nails and have given this song plenty of opportunities to grow on me, but this song isn’t for me personally. To sum up my opinions on this song: Boo-Frickety-Hoo.

Now that I’ve gotten that opinion off my chest, I will admit that That’s What I Get is by all means a listenable piece of music; but is my least favorite by far off the album. There is one thing that I have read about this album that makes all of the relationship songs more enjoyable, and that is that most of the time women are mentioned they represent drugs. Trent Reznor had a history with alcohol, cocaine, and who knows what else so this metaphor is entirely plausible. While this concept may not pertain to That’s What I Get, it gives many of the songs on Pretty Hate Machine a different tone or meaning to them. Whether the songs are about women or drugs, it doesn’t bother me one way or the other being that I love most of the songs as they are. However, it is a fun piece of information to hang onto and gives Pretty Hate Machine a much higher replay value.

Overall, Pretty Hate Machine is nothing short of excellent for a debut album. This album contains some very strong songs viewed against NIN’s entire song catalogue and mixes industrial, electronic, and pop elements together nicely. Whether or not listeners classify NIN as true industrial or not, NIN are a gateway band into the industrial music genre. This band is the entire reason I dug deeper into the genre and went on to discover other talented bands such as Ministry and Skinny Puppy. Reznor even admits he was inspired by Skinny Puppy when he was creating his song Down In It which can be found on this record.  While this may not be his most industrial sounding album ( save that for The Downward Spiral and Broken), it is a great album nonetheless as well as a good place to begin listening to NIN. I highly recommend this album to fans of music in general. Even if I don’t quite love the song That’s What I Get, this in no way, shape, or form ruins what is an excellent album.

Favorite songs: Ringfinger, Head Like A Hole, Sin, Terrible Lie 

Track listing: 1. Head Like A Hole, 2. Terrible Lie, 3. Down In It, 4. Sanctified, 5. Something I can Never Have, 6. Kinda I Want To, 7. Sin, 8. That’s What I Get, 9. The Only Time, 10. Ringfinger

Personnel: Trent Reznor – vocals/arranger/songwriter/engineer/mixer/producer/programming


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