Nine Inch Nails

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Pretty Hate Machine

Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine ©1989 TVT
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

One surefire way to get onto the bad side of a Nine Inch Nails fan (particularly any who were a teenager during the time period when Pretty Hate Machine was released) is to simply point out that this debut is "adorable" and find Trent Reznor in his most teenage angsty, whiny point of his life. That doesn't diminish the album's accomplishments, of course, but it sure will get some clucking going on by the fans.

Pretty Hate Machine, at least to me, can never be included with Nine Inch Nails' finest works. Trent Reznor was still developing a sound and had so far come up with a basic industrial/electronic/rock hybrid sound that might invoke a KMFDM member to say, "Yes, we also mixed heavy guitars with keyboards, except we're more menacing because we're German. Oooh, scary Germans!" Nine Inch Nails' debut did, however, lead off with a great single ("Head Like a Hole") and Reznor assembled a live touring unit that appeared in the original Lollapalooza. Had Nine Inch Nails remained a studio rat project, the future sound would sure have been different and keyboard manufacturers would have missed out on the chance to replace all the ones Reznor knocked over in a huff onstage.

Whatever else you want to say about it, it's fairly evident Reznor was working out some internal strife that's relatively common for people in their early 20s. In fact, I suspect many 22 year old heartbroken youngsters have rocked themselves back and forth chanting the lyrics of "Something I Can Never Have" over and over like some mantra. Other times, Reznor just sounds a bit pouty, such as "That's What I Get".

Pretty Hate Machine is, to me, a record that endures probably more for the nostalgia than its musical accomplishments. It is an obvious stepping stone towards what Reznor would ultimately achieve in music (brooding artist who never comes out in sunlight, etc) as well as featuring several very good songs. However, between some of the amusingly crankypants lyrics that could only have been written by someone in his early 20s and the not quite developed sound, Pretty Hate Machine just strikes me as merely quaint, especially listening to it at a much older age.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 07/2011

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Broken EP

Nine Inch Nails - Broken EP ©1992 TVT/Interscope
1. Pinion
2. Wish
3. Last
4. Help Me I Am In Hell
5. Happiness In Slavery
6. Gave Up
7. Physical
8. Suck

Although Pretty Hate Machine charted very respectably and Nine Inch Nails gained a reputation as a fearsome live unit on the original Lollapolooza tour, Trent Reznor had multiple run-ins with his record label, causing a long delay between full length albums. As it turns out, all the angst and turmoil of those salad days may have helped result in one of the most impressive Nine Inch Nails releases with 1992's Broken. Pretty Hate Machine, in comparison, is quaint and cuddly. Broken, on the other hand, shows what Reznor is capable of when he gets a burr in his britches.

Featuring a beefed up, meatier production relying more on thick guitars, Broken is an aggressive, quite pissed off record allowing Reznor to perhaps exorcise a demon or two. The metallic backdrop allows Reznor to holler and yell about his personal tortures in a very suitable manner. The songwriting alternates between quick pacing and anger with slower, much heavier tempos with some anger on the side. In fact, one might notice that anger is a running theme throughout Broken. The beauty of Broken is that Reznor expresses his anger quite succinctly without resorting to any generic methods of expression. Rather, this comes across as a honestly disgusted record that neither dwells in personal misery in a victim role or hokey, Biohazard foot-stompin' posturing.

Broken may be the most essential Nine Inch Nails purchase. Assuming you are not the type of buyer who automatically is unable to appreciate any release that also happens to have found mass appeal, the anger contained within this short EP will certainly enhance the next time you feel like breaking every object in your house after a bad day in the salt mines.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/2002

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The Downward Spiral

Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral ©1994 TVT/Interscope
1. Mr. Self Destruct
2. Piggy
3. Heresy
4. March Of The Pigs
5. Closer
6. Ruiner
7. The Becoming
8. I Do Not Want This
9. Big Man With A Gun
10. A Warm Place
11. Eraser
12. Reptile
13. The Downward Spiral
14. Hurt

The funny thing happened when Trent went on his way to create a very non-commercial album...the public ate it up. Using white noise, distortion and a whole plethora of studio effect, this is a quite respectable foray into the mind of a very creative individual. I hate to use any of the normal terms that describe Reznor as "twisted" or "demented" or "hateful" or whatever heart-wrenching term they use to label him. I couldn't care less if he sleeps with dogs or is going through life in a carefree trance. Musically, he's got a lot going on. Skip "Closer" (MTV certainly couldn't). That only skims the top. Check out "The Becoming" as the chaos melds into a beautiful acoustic guitar riff that actually says more than any drum machine or keyboard. Or listen to the ambience of "A Warm Place". In fact, the latter half of this record sustains a mood that is quite difficult just to capture accidentally. No matter what trendies like or naysayers claim, Reznor is a talented and creative individual on par with Jim "Foetus" Thirlwell (though lacking that sharp edge of sadistic humor that gives Thirlwell such identity). Let's just hope his success doesn't destroy it.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/1997

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The Fragile

Nine Inch Nails - The Fragile ©1999 Nothing/Interscope
CD one:
1. Somewhat Damaged
2. The Day The World Went Away
3. The Frail
4. The Wretched
5. We're In This Together
6. The Fragile
7. Just Like You Imagined
8. Even Deeper
9. Pilgrimage
10. No, You Don't
11. La Mer
12. The Great Below
CD two:
13. The Way Out Is Through
14. Into The Void
15. Where Is Everybody
16. The Mark Has Been Made
17. Please
18. Starfuckers, Inc.
19. Complication
20. I'm Looking Forward To Joining You, Finally
21. The Big Come Down
22. Underneath It All
23. Ripe (with Decay)

If you have ever wondered what kind of music Trent Reznor might make once he found a little bit of happiness in life, wonder no further than the two disc The Fragile, one of the most anticipated releases of 1999. In the five years since the quite impressive The Downward Spiral, Reznor has found a good chunk of success, praise, worship from young girls (and probably a few young men) dressed in darker colors and all sorts of high profile tours, David Bowie being the most notable in my mind. The Downward Spiral did in fact receive too much mainstream attention for the wrong song (and if I ever hear "Closer" again on the radio, I throw it out the window), but the album was still worth investing the time in hearing and appreciating. But given all that success as well as a five year interlude between albums, you have to wonder what exactly would motivate Reznor to put out an album equalling his previous works?

First things first. You have to give credit to Reznor for releasing a double album. Five years between full length releases is a bit excessive and often it is a sign of creative trouble (refer to Metallica for definitive proof). The double disc release of The Fragile at least gives NIN-o-philes something to chew on for awhile. But the bad news is that Reznor's angst sounds incredibly forced and phony throughout. It's as though he sat in his studio, surrounded by his barrage of instruments, thinking, "Well dammit, Trent, we're having a good day. What the hell am I supposed to write about now?" Bring in Formula-matic®, the songwriting cure for artists who have lost their muse, and you get nearly two dozen songs that imitate and recreate the sonic quality of previous Nine Inch Nails albums, but don't quite capture the pure emotional quality that gave them their allure. In a nutshell, The Fragile is a snoozer. It sounds pretty, the production of course is stellar since Reznor knows his way around a mixing board with the best of them, but beyond the sheen, there is not as much substance as a Nine Inch Nails album deserves. It is next to impossible to sit through this double set without either losing attention entirely or wanting to put something else on. And that's a darn shame. Forced angst is the same as listening to drama queen teenagers brood about their oh-so-awful problems. The Fragile is aptly named because beyond the thin shell of the pretty exterior of the music, it takes little pressure or critical listening to realize how fast the music falls apart.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/2000

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