Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine (4/10)

10 all-time favorite albums (as if I could limit it to ten), in no particular order. Albums that really made an impact and are still on your rotation list, even if only now and then.


Pretty Hate Machine was always going to be on here, wasn't it? There was a pretty long period of time where it was almost the only thing I would listen to. It was the first album I was aware of that successfully merged industrial with dance with rock with the kind of "feeling sorry for yourself" that would have made Morrissey blush.

I first heard "Down In It" at the Dallas dance clubs in the summer of 1989, but the album didn't come out until November. The intervening months gave me plenty of opportunity to blow my expectations sky high and, somehow, Pretty Hate Machine exceeded them. There wasn't a song on the album I didn't love, a feat that wouldn't be matched until....sometime later in this list.

NIN never made another album anything like this one. Adrian Sherwood, Keith LeBlanc, Al Jourgensen, John Fryer, and Flood all worked on the production, which sounds like it could be a mess, but it all came together in a seamless whole with slinky dance groove underpinnings. Subsequent albums tended to be more aggressive and/or abstract, which is great, but wildly different in texture to the debut.

Did it make an impact? Lordy, yes. Pretty Hate Machine was a lifestyle for me; it was an identity I didn't know I was looking for. I wouldn't stop talking about the damned thing. I went through more Rit black dye during this era than the rest of my life combined. It was an absolutely glorious time.