Sound — 8
I always consider the sound on this album to be "Pre-Nine Inch Nails Nine Inch Nails", because it is so drastically different from any of Reznor's other material. "Industrial-pop" could be considered fitting to this album, since it obviously draws from industrial artists like Skinny Puppy, but on the other hand the structures are so typically pop, in comparison to Broken. Depeche Modian blips and calls scatter the album, and underneath it all there is a certain sense of longing and unworthiness that I can't explain. "That's what I get" starts with an electronic spinning sound, which feels empty and cold, summing up the album quite nicely.
Lyrics — 6
Lyrically this is very consistent with the rest of Reznor's work: depressing, self-loathing. But that's exactly what I expect and want when I listen to Nine Inch Nails, so that's good enough. Down In It has quite a nice contrast between an upbeat song and angst-filled lyrics. "I used to be somebody" really gives away everything about Reznors lyrics. The vocals on the album differ from the rest. It may be production problems, or it may be Reznors vocal skills, but he seems a lot more feeble here than in later albums. Pretty Hate Machine lacks the angry screams that he lets out occasionally, although this may just be to do with the theme of the album.
Overall Impression — 8
This album, overall, is very good. But Nine Inch Nails is not a very good band, it's an excellent band. That's why I don't consider it essential listening from the NIN catalogue. However, as the first album it is important to see how the later albums would develop. Essentially, Pretty Hate Machine combined with Broken EP makes The Downward Spiral, the final fantastic product that everyone knows and loves, and it is important to any true music fan to listen to this, even if it is just to hear the evolution of Nine Inch Nails from 80's Electronic Music to True Musical Genius.