Pretty Hate Machine

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Pretty Hate Machine
Studio album by Nine Inch Nails
Released October 20, 1989 (1989-10-20)
Recorded May–June 1989, Right Track, Cleveland; Blackwing & Roundhouse, London; Unique, New York City; Synchro Sound, Boston
Genre Synthpop,[1] industrial rock,[2] dance,[3] electronic[4]
Length 48:42
Label TVT
Producer Trent Reznor, Flood, Adrian Sherwood, Keith LeBlanc, John Fryer
Nine Inch Nails chronology
Pretty Hate Machine
Halo numbers chronology
"Halo 1"
"Halo 2"
"Halo 3"
Singles from Pretty Hate Machine
  1. "Down in It"
    Released: September 15, 1989
  2. "Head Like a Hole"
    Released: March 22, 1990
  3. "Sin"
    Released: October 10, 1990
Original LP Edition
2010 Remastered

Pretty Hate Machine is the debut album by American industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, released October 20, 1989, on TVT Records. Pretty Hate Machine is compiled of reworked tracks from the Purest Feeling demo, as well as tracks recorded after its recording. The album spawned three singles, the most successful being "Head Like a Hole", which has become a staple in Nine Inch Nails live performances.

The album became one of the first independently released records to attain platinum certification. On 12 May 2003 the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified the album triple platinum, denoting sales of three million in the United States.[5] It was commercially and critically successful for an independent label, but Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails' only constant band member) feuded with TVT (the original publishing label of the album) during promotion. The album was out of print from around 1997 to 2005, due to the much publicized falling out between Reznor and the record label. Rykodisc re-released the album around the world in 2005, effectively putting the album back into print. A remastered version was released on November 22, 2010.

Slant Magazine listed the album at #50 on its list of "Best Albums of the 1980s" saying "Before attempting suicide in The Downward Spiral and living with the wrist scars in The Fragile, Pretty Hate Machine sent out sleek, danceable warning shots".[6]


Working nights at Right Track Studio as a handyman and janitor in Cleveland, Ohio,[7] Reznor used studio "down-time" to record and develop his own music. Playing most of the keyboards, drum machines, guitars, and samplers himself, he recorded a demo. The sequencing was done on a Macintosh Plus.[8]

Teaming up with manager John Malm, Jr., they sent the demo to various record labels. Reznor received serious offers from many of them, but eventually signed a deal with TVT Records who, until then, were known mainly for releasing novelty and television jingle records. Pretty Hate Machine was recorded in various studios around the world with Reznor collaborating with some of his most idolized producers: Flood, Keith LeBlanc, Adrian Sherwood, and John Fryer. Much like his recorded demo, Reznor refused to record the album with a conventional band, recording Pretty Hate Machine mostly by himself.

"A lot of it sounds immature to me now," he confessed in 1991 of the recordings that were then two years old. "At first it totally sucked. I became completely withdrawn. I couldn't function in society very well. And the LP became a product of that. It's quite small scale, introverted, claustrophobic – that's the feel I went for."[9]

Since the album was released, a recording known as Purest Feeling surfaced. This bootleg album contains the original demo recordings of most of the tracks found on Pretty Hate Machine, as well as a couple that were not used ("Purest Feeling", "Maybe Just Once" and an instrumental introduction to "Sanctified" called "Slate").[citation needed]

Music and lyrics[edit]

Unlike the industrial music of Nine Inch Nails' contemporaries, Pretty Hate Machine employed catchy riffs and verse-chorus song structures rather than repetitive electronic sounds.[4] Reznor's lyrics express adolescent angst and feelings of betrayal by lovers, society, or God.[4] and juxtapose themes of despair with lovelorn sentiments.[2] Pitchfork Media's Tom Breihan categorized it as a synthpop album that was informed by industrial music's "nascent new-wave period rather than its subsequent styles."[1] According to Breihan, the beats were muscular, but not in the vein of metal or post-punk, and that the most rock-inspired song on the album was "Head Like a Hole".[1]

"It's the all-purpose alternative album!" Reznor quipped. "If you want to stage dive to it, you can, but if you're a big Depeche Mode fan, you can get what you need out of it as well."[10]

Music journalist Jon Pareles characterized the album's music as "electro-rock or industrial rock, using drum machines, computerized synthesizer riffs and obviously processed sounds to detail, and usually denounce, an artificial world."[2] Tom Popson of the Chicago Tribune called it a dance album that is partly characterized by industrial dance's aggressive sound: "Reznor's electronics-plus-guitar LP also carries a brighter techno-pop element that might remind some of Depeche Mode. Things occasionally mellow out to moody atmospherics, while Reznor`s vocals range from whispers to screams."[3]

"I like electronic music, but I like it to have some aggression," Reznor observed. "That 'first wave' of electro music – Human League and Devo – that's the easiest way to use it. To be able to get some humanity and aggression into it in a cool way, that's the thing… Pretty Hate Machine is a record you can listen to and get more out of each time. To me, something like Front 242 is the opposite: great at first but, after 10 listens, that's it."[11]


The bands listed in the liner notes (Prince, Jane's Addiction and Public Enemy, amongst others) were sampled on the album. Parts of Prince's "Alphabet St." and Jane's Addiction's "Had a Dad" are prominently heard in "Ringfinger", while other samples were either edited or distorted to be unrecognizable, such as the introduction to "Kinda I Want To".

A speech from Midnight Express was sampled at a very low volume during the music break in "Sanctified".[citation needed] On the 2010 reissue of the album, this sample is no longer present, most likely due to clearance issues.

"Sin" contains elements from a widely used sample from the song "Change the Beat" by Fab 5 Freddy.



Reznor during the 1991 Lollapalooza festival

In 1990, Reznor quickly hired a band, including guitarist and future Filter frontman Richard Patrick, and began the Pretty Hate Machine Tour Series, in which they toured North America as an opening act for alternative rock artists such as Peter Murphy and The Jesus and Mary Chain.[12][13] Nine Inch Nails' live set during the time was known for louder, more aggressive versions of the studio songs. At some point, Reznor began smashing his equipment while on stage (Reznor preferred using the heel of his boots to strip the keys from expensive keyboards, most notably the Yamaha DX7);[citation needed] Nine Inch Nails then embarked on a world tour that continued through the first Lollapalooza festival in 1991 and culminated in an opening slot to support Guns N' Roses on their European tour which was poorly received.[14]

Commercial performance[edit]

Released on 20 October 1989, Pretty Hate Machine was a commercial success. Although it peaked at number 75, the album gained popularity through word-of-mouth and developed an underground following. Pretty Hate Machine spent a total of 115 weeks on the Billboard 200,[15] and received moderate radio airplay for the singles "Down in It", "Head Like a Hole", and "Sin".[citation needed]

Pretty Hate Machine was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on 3 March 1992, just over two years after the album's initial release, for sales of more than 500,000 units.[5] Three years later, it became one of the first independently released records to attain platinum certification[5] following the success of Broken and The Downward Spiral. Pretty Hate Machine eventually achieved triple platinum certification on 12 May 2003, with over three million copies sold in the United States to date.[5]

Canada certified Pretty Hate Machine gold in April 1994.[16] The United Kingdom took a similar approach, giving it a readymade silver certification, following its number 67 peak.[17]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[4]
The A.V. Club B–[18]
Chicago Tribune 2/4 stars[19]
Pitchfork Media 9.5/10[1]
Q 4/5 stars[20]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[21]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4.5/5 stars[22]
Select 4/5 stars[23]

Pretty Hate Machine was well received by contemporary music critics. Rolling Stone's Michael Azerrad called the album "industrial-strength noise over a pop framework" and "harrowing but catchy music";[24] Reznor proclaimed this combination "a sincere statement" of "what was in [his] head at the time".[25] Robert Hilburn, writing in the Los Angeles Times, found Reznor's "dark obsession" compelling.[26] Q magazine said that he "scans the spectrum of modern dance" with a "panoramic vision" that is "both admirably adventurous and yet accessible."[20] Select magazine's Neil Perry said that it is "a flawed but listenable labour of loathing".[27]

In a less enthusiastic review for The New York Times, Jon Pareles wrote that Pretty Hate Machine "stays so close to the conventions established by Depeche Mode, Soft Cell and New Order that it could be a parody album".[2] Mark Jenkins of The Washington Post called its songs "competent but undistinctive stuff" and felt that the "angry denunciations" of songs such as "Terrible Lie" are overshadowed by the "nursery-rhyme" chants of "Down In It".[28] Tom Popson of the Chicago Tribune wrote that "the playing and production get points for introducing some variety to the industrial style, but the moments of soap-on-a-rope singing tend to cancel them out."[19]

In a retrospective review of the album, Allmusic editor Steve Huey commended Reznor for giving "industrial music a human voice, a point of connection" with his "tortured confusion and self-obsession", and felt that "the greatest achievement of Pretty Hate Machine was that it brought emotional extravagance to a genre whose main theme had nearly always been dehumanization."[4] Upon its 2010 reissue, Will Hermes of Rolling Stone called it "the first industrial singer-songwriter album" and commended the sound produced by Flood and Keith LeBlanc, whom he said "taught Reznor a lot."[21] Kyle Ryan of The A.V. Club felt that the album "remains the work of an artist just discovering his voice" and said that "20 years later, it doesn’t warrant repeat listens like its successors." He found some of its synth and sampled sounds to still be dated after the album's remastering and Reznor's lyrics "mopey" and "silly".[18] In his review for Blender, journalist Chuck Palahniuk said that the album "seemed like the first honest piece of music I ever heard."[29]


Pretty Hate Machine went out of print through TVT Records, but was reissued by Rykodisc Records on November 22, 2005 with slight changes in the packaging. Reznor had expressed an interest in creating a "deluxe edition" with surround sound remastering and new/rare remixes, similar to the re-release of The Downward Spiral. Rykodisc liked the idea, but wanted Reznor to pay them to do so.[30]

On March 29, 2010, the master recording rights of Pretty Hate Machine were acquired by the Bicycle Music Company and on October 22, 2010, Reznor announced that a remastered reissue of the album would be released by UMe and Bicycle Music Group on November 22, 2010. The re-release includes new cover art by Rob Sheridan and the bonus track "Get Down, Make Love", a Queen cover originally found on the "Sin" single.[31] The 2010 remastered reissue was mastered by Tom Baker at Precision Mastering in Hollywood, California.[32]

Leading up to the re-release of the album, a website was put up for fans featuring content from videos and tours for Pretty Hate Machine. The videos for "Head Like a Hole" and "Down in It" featured newly remastered sound, the uncut video for "Sin" (a remix for the video was used, which did not lead to the song being remastered) and two early live video segments, one with interviews.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Trent Reznor, except where noted. 

No. Title Length
1. "Head Like a Hole"   4:59
2. "Terrible Lie"   4:38
3. "Down in It"   3:46
4. "Sanctified"   5:48
5. "Something I Can Never Have"   5:53
6. "Kinda I Want To"   4:34
7. "Sin"   4:05
8. "That's What I Get"   4:30
9. "The Only Time"   4:47
10. "Ringfinger"   5:42
Total length:




Country Certifications
(sales thresholds)
United Kingdom[38] Silver
United States[39] 3x Platinum


  1. ^ a b c d Breihan, Tom. Review: Pretty Hate Machine. Pitchfork Media. Retrieved on 2010-11-24.
  2. ^ a b c d Pareles, Jon. Review: Pretty Hate Machine. The New York Times. Retrieved on 2009-08-28.
  3. ^ a b Popson, Tom (January 26, 1990). "Dancing Through Disillusion With Nine Inch Nails". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 2, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Huey, Steve. Review: Pretty Hate Machine. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2009-08-28.
  5. ^ a b c d "". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 2011-06-16.  Note: User must define search parameters, i.e. "Nine Inch Nails".
  6. ^
  7. ^ Huey, Steve. "Nine Inch Nails". Allmusic. Retrieved 2007-02-03. 
  8. ^ Mathew Honan (1 February 2002). "Pro File: Nailing a New Look". Macworld. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  9. ^ Select, March 1991
  10. ^ Select, March 1991
  11. ^ Select, March 1991
  12. ^ Huxley (1997), p. 45
  13. ^ Huey, Steve. "Nine Inch Nails". Allmusic. Macrovision. Retrieved 2006-11-24. 
  14. ^ Duemling, Keith (March 1996). Sympathy for the Devil (transcript). Spin. Retrieved 2011-06-02.
  15. ^ "The Billboard 200 - Pretty Hate Machine". Billboard. Nielsen Company. Retrieved 4 September 2013. 
  16. ^ "Canadian Recording Industry Association–Search Certification Database". Canadian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved 2008-03-08.  Note: User must define search parameters, i.e. "Nine Inch Nails".
  17. ^ "Blue Lines Certified Awards". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 2009-08-26.  Note: User must define search parameters, i.e. "Nine Inch Nails".
  18. ^ a b Ryan, Kyle (November 23, 2010). "Pretty Hate Machine: 2010 Remaster". The A.V. Club (Chicago). Retrieved May 31, 2013. 
  19. ^ a b Popson, Tom. "Review: Pretty Hate Machine". Chicago Tribune: 69–70. December 22, 1989.
  20. ^ a b "Review: Pretty Hate Machine". Q (London). March 1991. 
  21. ^ a b Hermes, Will (November 22, 2010). "Pretty Hate Machine Reissue". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 31, 2013. 
  22. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (November 2, 2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon & Schuster. p. 587. Retrieved 2012-10-28. 
  23. ^ Select, March 1991
  24. ^ Azerrad, Michael (1990). "Nine Inch Nails". Rolling Stone. 
  25. ^ Martin, Steve (1990). "Nine Inch Nails". Thrasher. 
  26. ^ Hilburn, Robert. Review: Pretty Hate Machine. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on 2009-08-28.
  27. ^ Select, March 1991
  28. ^ Jenkins, Mark. "Review: Pretty Hate Machine". The Washington Post: February 2, 1990.
  29. ^ Blender, November 2003
  30. ^ Trent Reznor talks about PHM re-issue, touring. The NIN Hotline. Last accessed January 10, 2008.
  31. ^ Pretty Hate Machine Press Release. The Bicycle Music Company. Accessed October 26, 2010.
  32. ^ 2010 remastered reissue credits
  33. ^ a b c "Nine Inch Nails". The Official Charts Company. 
  34. ^ "Pretty Hate Machine - Nine Inch Nails". Billboard. 
  35. ^ a b "Nine Inch Nails Alternative Songs Chart History". Billboard. 
  36. ^ a b c "Nine Inch Nails Dance Songs Chart History". Billboard. 
  37. ^ a b c "Nine Inch Nails". Allmusic. 
  38. ^ "BPI certifications". British Phonographic Industry. 
  39. ^ "RIAA - Gold & Platinum". Recording Industry Association of America. 


  • Nathan Brackett, Christian Hoard (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide: Completely Revised and Updated 4th Edition. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 

External links[edit]