And All That Could Have Been (Review)

By Douglas Wolk for Spin on February 1, 2002

Live albums come in two basic flavors: status reports by versatile interpreters of their own material and desperation ploys by slow-moving studio pros who need to come up with some product in a hurry. Given that Trent Reznor has already followed The Fragile with a remix collection, and that his idea of spontaneity in performance is throwing in an extra "fuck you," no points for guessing which this is.

Essentially an afterthought to a DVD of the same name, And All That Could Have Been documents the tour that followed The Fragile, Trent Reznor put on quite a show, mostly in the visual department. On its own, the soundtrack might as well be a Nine Inch Nails cover band. The group works up a head of steam occasionally, especially on "Wish," but none of these stiff, bombastic performances add any depth to their songs. Reznor's genius is for painstaking soundcraft--the devastating, thickly layered production that magnifies his paper cuts into deep wounds. An interesting Nine Inch Nails live record might see him open those wounds in public, but there's none of that here. "Starfuckers, Inc." is just the kind of rote rocker it savages, and the "March of the Pigs"/"Piggy" dyad is less Charles Manson than Charlie the Tuna. The fans are screaming, but they're screaming for a hero who didn't show up.

"Deluxe copies" of And All That Could Have Been also include a penalty disc called Still, featuring some instrumental doodles and quieter "deconstructions" of familiar Nine Inch Nails material. Please note: Playing your old songs on piano does not constitute deconstruction them. All it does in this case is demonstrate that Reznor's got nothing new left to say. Whether it's loud or soft, his reiteration of his self-important rage, which once made furious white noise sound like a party, is gruesomely passé in 2002.

Transcripted by 00101010

View the NIN Hotline article index