Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine: #921 of best 1,000 albums ever!

Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine

Why is Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine on my best 1,000 albums ever list?

I’d have to have a head like a hole not to.

What does Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine mean to me? What does it make me feel? Why is it exciting or compelling?

My feelings about “Head Like a Hole” – by far the best song on Pretty Hate Machine – are tied up with its music video. I first heard the song and saw the video as a teenager, and it struck me on a deep and visceral level. The way that art can at such an impressionable and formative age.

I liked it quite a lot – especially the song – and I found the video striking, exciting, but also offputting, almost disturbing. I’m talking particularly about the sections that are very quick flashes back-and-forth between what seems to be some kind of tribal ceremony or cultural dance and a rotating sculpture (I guess?) of a head and face with all kinds of other wild effects going on.

The best 1,000 albums ever is not centrally focused on music video critiques, so I’ll leave it there except to relay that when the moody, broody, driving chorus releases into the aggressive and exhilarating chorus, I knew that I was experiencing something that I never had before, and I dug it.

It would be a song and music video by another band out of the Seattle scene a few years later that fundamentally altered my taste in music, but “Head Like a Hole” helped to open me up to different musical possibilities.

I really like how “Ringfinger” starts out with Yaz-like 1980s keyboard pulses mapped against Trent Reznor’s largely isolated and anguished voice, before morphing into far spookier territory.

The more I listen to Pretty Hate Machine, the more I appreciate its slow, grinding, pleading, and plaintive pleasures. The slow, weird industrial funk of “The Only Time,” for example. Am I insane that there’s some George Michael in this song in the best possible way?

This is one of those albums that I might imagine some contemporaries of mine taking issue with for not being “higher” on a best 1,000 albums ever list. There will be plenty more of these kinds of arguments to come, which is really part of the fun debate that I’m hoping to stoke with such an audacious undertaking.

I’m reminded of conversations with one of my best friends, Lou. We have very similar tastes in many things, but we also both relish getting into debates where our opinions or interests diverge, if ever so slightly. For example, our taste in music is fairly similar in many ways. I imagine that we have similar feelings about Guns ‘n Roses – a band which peaked in popularity when we were both in high school – for example. But his tastes gravitate a little bit more to metal and industrial bands, while I’m more apt to lean into punk and new wave outfits.

Therefore, he’d be likely to want to talk your ears off about Alice in Chains, whereas if I heard a stranger mention “Frank Black,” I’d be running in that direction to see what was up.

Which is all to say, I imagine that Pretty Hate Machine would be quite a bit higher on Lou’s best 1,000 albums list. Where, of course, it would be perfectly highlighted.

Some stats & info about Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Industrial Music, Dance Music,, Industrial Metal, Alternative Rock
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – #453
  • All Music’s rating5 out of 5 stars
  • When was Pretty Hate Machine released? 1989
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #921 out of 1,000

Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine on Spotify

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective take on what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.