Pretty Hate Machine is the debut album by American industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, released October 20, 1989 on TVT RecordsPretty Hate Machineis compiled of reworked tracks from the Purest Feeling demo, as well as songs composed after its original recording. Three singles were released from the album, 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 May 12, 2003 the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified the album triple platinum, indicating sales of three million copies in the United States.[5] Although it was critically and commercially successful for an independent labelTrent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails' only constant band member) feuded with TVT (the album's original label) during its promotion. The album was out of print from 1997 to 2005, because of the much publicized disagreement between Reznor and the record label. Rykodisc re-released the album worldwide in 2005, effectively putting the album back into print. A remastered version was released on November 22, 2010.

Slant Magazine listed the album at number 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 FragilePretty Hate Machine sent out sleek, danceable warning shots".[6]


 [hide*1 Background


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

With the help of manager John Malm, Jr., he sent the demo to various record labels. Reznor received contract offer from many of the labels, but eventually signed with TVT Records, who were known mainly for releasing novelty and television jingle records. Pretty Hate Machine was recorded in various studios 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 stated 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 I became completely withdrawn.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]

After the album was released, a recording known as Purest Feeling surfaced. This bootleg album contains the original demo recordings of most of the tracks featured 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]Edit

Unlike the industrial music of Nine Inch Nails' contemporaries, Pretty Hate Machine displays catchy riffs and verse-chorus song structures rather than repetitive electronic beats.[4] Reznor's lyrics express adolescent angst and feelings of betrayal by lovers, society, or God.[4] Themes of despair are collocated with lovesick sentiments.[2] Pitchfork Media's Tom Breihan categorized it as a synthpop album that was shaped by industrial music's "nascent new-waveperiod 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 described the album 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]


PrinceJane's Addiction, and Public Enemy, are listed in the liner notes as artists whose music was sampled on the album. Segments of Prince's "Alphabet St." and Jane's Addiction's "Had a Dad" can be heard in "Ringfinger", unlike the other samples which were edited or distorted in order to be unrecognizable, such as the introduction to "Kinda I Want To". A speech from Midnight Express was sampled at low volume during the pause in "Sanctified". On the album's 2010 reissue, this sample is not present, most likely due to clearance issues. "Sin" contains elements from the song "Change the Beat" by Fab 5 Freddy.[citation needed]


Main article: Pretty Hate Machine Tour Series[1]Reznor during the 1991Lollapalooza festival

In 1990, Reznor quickly formed a band, hiring 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 at the time was known for louder, more aggressive versions of the studio songs. At some point, Reznor began smashing his equipment onstage (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 poorly–received European tour.[14]

Commercial performance[edit]Edit

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

Pretty Hate Machine was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on March 3, 1992, two years after the album's initial release, for shipping 500,000 units.[5] Three years later, it became one of the first independently released records to attain platinum certification.[5] Pretty Hate Machine eventually achieved triple platinum certification on May 12, 2003, with three million copies sold in the United States.[5] The album was certified gold by Music Canada in April 1994.[16] It also received a silver certification from the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), following its number 67 peak.[17]

Critical reception[edit]Edit

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic [4]
The A.V. Club B–[18]
Chicago Tribune [19]
Consequence of Sound B[20]
Pitchfork Media 9.5/10[1]
Q [21]
Rolling Stone [22]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide [23]
Select [24]

Pretty Hate Machine was well received by contemporary music criticsRolling Stone'Michael Azerrad called the album "industrial-strength noise over a pop framework" and "harrowing but catchy music";[25] Reznor proclaimed this combination "a sincere statement" of "what was in [his] head at the time".[26] Robert Hilburn, writing in the Los Angeles Times, found Reznor's "dark obsession" compelling.[27] Q magazine said that he "scans the spectrum of modern dance" with a "panoramic vision" that is "both admirably adventurous and yet accessible."[21] Select magazine's Neil Perry said that it is "a flawed but listenable labour of loathing".[28]

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 ModeSoft 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".[29] Tom Popson of theChicago 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."[22] 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."[30]


Pretty Hate Machine went out of print through TVT Records, but was reissued by Rykodisc Records on November 22, 2005, with slightly modified packaging. Reznor had expressed interest in making a deluxe edition with surround sound remastering and new remixes, similar to the re-release of The Downward Spiral. Rykodisc initially accepted the idea, but wanted Reznor to pay the production costs.[31]

On March 29, 2010, the recording rights of Pretty Hate Machine were acquired by the Bicycle Music Company and on October 22, 2010, Reznor announced that a remastered edition of the album would be released the following month. The re-release included new cover art by Rob Sheridan and the bonus track "Get Down, Make Love", a Queen cover originally from the "Sin" single.[32] The 2010 reissue wasmastered by Tom Baker at the Precision Mastering in Hollywood, California.[33]

Before the album's re-release, a fans website was launched featuring video content and touring information for Pretty Hate Machine. The videos for "Head Like a Hole" and "Down in It" had remastered sound, the uncut video for "Sin" (a remix for the video was used) and two early live video segments, one with interviews.

Track listing[edit]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: 48:42


  • Trent Reznor – vocals, arranger, programming, production (1–10), engineering, digital editing, mixing, songwriter, mastering (2010 reissue)
  • Chris Vrenna – programming, digital editing
  • Richard Patrick – droning guitar (4)
  • Tom Baker – mastering (2010 reissue)
  • Sean Beavan – mixing
  • Doug d'Angelis – engineering
  • Tony Dawsey – mastering
  • Flood – programming, production (1, 2), engineering
  • John Fryer – production (4–10), engineering, mixing
  • Al Jourgensen (credited as Hypo Luxa) – production (11)



Chart (1991) Peak


UK Albums Chart[34] 67
US Billboard 200[35] 75


Year Song Chart Peak


1989 "Down in It" US Alternative Songs[36] 16
US Hot Dance Music/Club Play[37] 16
US Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales[38] 20
1990 "Head Like a Hole" UK Singles Chart[34] 45
US Alternative Songs[36] 28
US Hot Dance Music/Club Play[37] 17
US Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales[38] 34
"Sin" UK Singles Chart[34] 35
US Hot Dance Music/Club Play[37] 10
US Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales[38] 13


Country Certifications

(sales thresholds)

United Kingdom[39] Silver
United States[40] 3x Platinum
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