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Happy 25th Anniversary, ‘Pretty Hate Machine’

Happy 25th Anniversary, 'Pretty Hate Machine'

On October 20th, 1989, Trent Reznor and his Nine Inch Nails released their first album “Pretty Hate Machine.” I wouldn’t discover until roughly 10 years later, and ever since it would become the most honest answer I could give to any “what’s your favorite _____” question.

Though I suspect it was never Reznor’s intention, the haunting and melancholic but yet somehow incredibly catchy (at times even downright danceable) album became the one I came out to. And I know at least a half dozen queer folks of a certain age that have similar relationships to “Pretty Hate Machine.” So much of it has lyrics that easily resonates with the mindset of an angsty, sexually confused teenager. I mean just read the lyrics of “Something I Can Never Have” and try not to tell me it’s an ultimate teenage closet case anthem:

I still recall the taste of your tears.
Echoing your voice just like the ringing in my ears.
My favorite dreams of you still wash ashore.
Scraping through my head ’till I don’t want to sleep anymore.

[Chorus:]
You make this all go away.
You make this all go away.
I’m down to just one thing.
And I’m starting to scare myself.
You make this all go away.
You make this all go away.
I just want something.
I just want something I can never have

You always were the one to show me how
Back then I couldn’t do the things that I can do now.
This thing is slowly taking me apart.
Grey would be the color if I had a heart.

Come on tell me

[Chorus]

In this place it seems like such a shame.
Though it all looks different now,
I know it’s still the same
Everywhere I look you’re all I see.
Just a fading fucking reminder of who I used to be.

Come on tell me

[Chorus]

I just want something I can never have

I’ve always dreamed someone would someday make a sexually explicit musical about unrequited queer love set to the lyrics of the album (“That’s What I Get” and “The Only Time” are full of potential in that regard).  But in the likely case that never happens, we’ll always have “Pretty Hate Machine.” Listen to the album in full below, even if it doesn’t work as a fading fucking reminder of who you used to be…

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