NINE INCH Nails is Trent Reznor, and it‘s
fitting that his surname borders on ‘razor‘ because 'Pretty Hate Machine‘ is
musical mutilation of the first order.
Reznor is not, one imagines, interested in
being considered ‘nice‘ - the machinery that gives him a kick is the kind that
causes industrial accidents, big black things with ugly, spiky little cogs.
Maybe coming from Cleveland is to blame, but it just isn‘t fair
to accuse a whole city for his nightmares. Sicko.
‘PHM‘ is not a happy record. ‘Head Like A Hole‘
is an evocative title and the track is itself vicious. Marching in like a
stormtrooper looking to break heads, it unrolls over you, a mechanised
caterpillar spitting pieces of guitar shrapnel and a vocal both antagonistic
and desperate. With raging choruses trapped between cold rhythms, this is a song
to padlock at night.
‘Terrible Lie‘, which follows, is less intense
but more sinister, Reznor supplicating his abstract gods with cursing and
contempt. The absence of obvious melody deepens the rnelancholy to the point
where Reznor seems an intellectual masochist kidding himself he‘s a sadist but
unable to stop himself jamming his fingers in a steel door again and again. Peculiar
noises trouble the track like hungry insects in a fight, making it a minor
masterpiece of inturned disgust and pity.
‘Down In It‘ is more of the same, but
‘Sanctified‘ offers relief in the form of a subdued vocal and dark grey, rather
than wholly black, tonal colouration. Nevertheless, li‘s still a cockroach on
Valentine‘s Day, whereas ‘Something I Can Never Have‘ is genuinely laid back,
the sound of melting black ice, Reznor exaggerating every phrase to within
inches of self-parody. Few love songs manage, ‘ That night on my bed/Still picking at this scab/I wish you were dead’
a fact we should be grateful for.
Reznor has guts, and they make his ‘Machine‘ one
to be treated with respect. It‘s ready to dose ranks with Ministry, Foetus and
the rest.. .and crush us.