Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be the 100 Most Dynamic Debut Albums Ever Made, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here.
Did goth kids have anything to make out to before Pretty Hate Machine? The sheer amount of angst and pent up sexual aggression on this album just takes me back to a simpler time in life. Classics such as “Head Like a Hole” and “Terrible Lie” began the Industrial Revolution of the 1990s.
Superficial listeners who might be turned off by Trent Reznor’s divisive lyrics are definitely missing out on a classic. What’s so distinctive about this album is how he managed to make electronic music so catchy. Listen to the new wave-inspired “Ringfinger” and hard bass on “Sanctified,” and tell me you don’t want to have a dance party right now. In contrast, tracks like “Something I Can Never Have” feature Reznor’s complex and introverted spirit. Nine Inch Nails’ future catalogue never strayed too far from their early roots of foreboding techno and emo-infused synthpop.
Reznor recorded the demos for this album using minimal equipment, including a Mac computer. Beyond what he did for the genre of industrial music, he inspired a future generation of basement producers who would follow his lead: creating electronic music using only a laptop, a few key samples and some inexpensive synthesizers.
And the synths, how they hold up over time! When you hear the opener “Terrible Lie” played live (on 2002’s And All That Could Have Been) you notice very little about the song has been augmented even after 10+ years. They basically just turn the volume up.