My first experience with Nine Inch Nails’ seminal debut effort arrived in conjunction with the sand-encrusted drive home from a boating trip. I was 14 and in the backseat of a popular surfer’s car as we sped down the highway from Jupiter Inlet in South Florida. The windows were down, the stereo crackled and hummed as it tried (and failed) to handle the boom boom of “Down In It,” my puppy love was beside me, and a Red Hot Chili Peppers logo was affixed to the steering wheel. That’s what I remember of my first confrontations with “Something I Can Never Have” and “That’s What I Get,” singing ever-so-earnestly, “Maybe didn’t mean that much/but it meant everything to me.” One year later, the former track would arrive on a mix tape from another suitor. It’s fair to say that my high school years never outran the beckoning aggro-synth carnality of Trent Reznor’s Pretty Hate Machine.

There are few as deeply affecting caterwauls than the pipes that belong to Reznor, the then 23-year-old Cleveland-based studio janitor who pieced together his version of first love and last rites, naked supplications and apoplectica with electrical tape and sweat in 1989. Save for the already burgeoning industrial and goth scenes across the country and discothèques of Eastern Europe that quaked to Throbbing Gristle and Einstürzende Neubauten, the addictive, romantic synth nihilism that Pretty Hate Machine thrust upon the youth of the America and their tape decks and zippers was a revelation. Soon enough, millions of us were drawn straight into the velvety hell that the scrawny and awkward white guy living in shit apartments in Cleveland was selling. It was all so deliciously dangerous to listen to Reznor rage against his damaged circuitry and absentee fathers and ex-girlfriends and a world that threw him away. Those of us endlessly and painfully slouching and dead-tree dancing and masquerading and marauding our way to adulthood finally had a dirty backbeat that didn’t involve the Miami bass scene.

Due to his desire to form his own imprint label, Nothing Records, under Interscope in the ’90s, Reznor lost the rights to his original masters of the album to TVT Records. The resulting vitriol at having his artistic freedom and intellectual property jerked around with would be addressed on 1992’s brilliantly aggressive Broken, including a memorably hot-breathed side comment during the intro to “Physical,” a bonus track and Adam and the Ants cover, that found Reznor whisper-seething, “Eat your heart out, Steve,” a nod to TVT’s founder Steve Gottlieb who would not release Reznor from his label contract. Five years later, Pretty Hate Machine would be rendered out of print until 2005 as a result of Reznor and TVT’s in-fighting.

In 2005, Rykodisc re-released Pretty Hate Machine without Reznor’s creative assistance, and it would take five more years for Reznor to finally wrestle control over his original tapes of the album thanks to the Bicycle Music Company’s acquisition of the rights from Prudential Securities. Now, finally, in 2010, Reznor has revisited his old friend, cracking open the original to offer fans a shiny and digitally remastered Pretty Hate Machine. So is it worth cracking your bleeding wallet open to buy your fifth copy of this album? Yes. Yes it is. No doubt that your long-suffering cassettes and CDs need a break, and what a way to replace them: this Machine is sleeker, deeper; amplified in all the right places, and tweaked to perfection by the only man who should be at the knobs in the first place.

Album opener “Head Like a Hole” is just as menacing as you remember, now with crisper-sounding synths and guitars that sweep the leg of your stereo field. “Terrible Lie” and “Ringfinger” positively shimmer and quiver, while the always vibrant “Down In It,” and incendiary “Sin” and “The Only Time” are wholly awash in their intoxicating dance beats and powerful bass thumps. The album’s most haunting tracks, “Sanctified,” and the ultimate heartbreaker “Something I Can Never Have” feel more claustrophobic and feverish, cutting a swath of heavier sonics and atmosphere, with buffed-up guitar, synth and piano, including the former’s eardrum-slicing scrapes. The album’s most striking change, the addition of previous “Sin” B-side (and Queen cover) “Get Down Make Love” which was produced by Ministry’s Al Jourgensen, is synth-cheese heaven; a swaggering George Michael-esque background jam for necking. In all, Pretty Hate Machine has been polished to pop, highlighting and amplifying all layers and levels of Reznor’s meticulous instrumentation and moist vocals back when he subsisted on ramen noodles like the rest of us, and didn’t shy away from his more contemporary new-wave influences. Now that he’s gotten this out of his system, maybe he can officially release a Blu-ray DVD of NIN’s infamously untamed headline-grabbing/event-defining/mud piggy set at Woodstock ‘94. Just a thought. (The Null Corporation) –Carrie Alison