And All That Could Have Been

by: Nine Inch Nails

Trent Reznor's protégé, Marilyn Manson, released the live Last Tour on Earth album in 1999 to try and capitalize on his dwindling success. The album was competent and sounded good but did very little to the material to make it different from the album versions, causing the album to disappear without much of a fuss. Only three years later, Reznor finds himself in a touchier spot with similar results. It is not that he is no longer an important artist at this point, but his commercial success fell away during the four-year recording sessions for The Fragile, leaving him with a solid core base of fans but missing the commercial success he once enjoyed. And All That Could Have Been, taken from the tour of that album, is much like Manson's live album in the sense that these renditions are not at all bad. But most of the songs found here are virtually the same as the album versions, with only rougher vocals and crowd noise to really change things up. The few songs from Pretty Hate Machine ("Terrible Lie," "Sin," and "Head Like a Hole") get the best treatment, changed around to include better guitar work and more experimental samples that compliment the songs nicely. This same approach sinks "Suck," the Pigface cover that has only previously appeared as a hidden track on the Broken EP. Where the original thrived on a shaky structure and Reznor's raging vocals, this time around there is a solid base that may bring more sense to the song but takes away all of the drive. Reznor is an excellent vocalist, but his live work is barely different from his studio work, except for the moments where he is obviously too far away from the microphone. The band plays quite well but does little to give the music any of the spark that the music deserves. In fact, that is the main problem with the album: there is a distinct lack of energy that gives this the distinct feel of a cash-in, not a genuine live experience. Nine Inch Nails are a powerful live force, but this album does not reflect the intensity they can muster in a live setting. Fans of Reznor may enjoy this very much, but to the casual listener this is like a muddy-sounding greatest hits. Much better is the two disc limited edition version, which includes an entire album of Reznor performing moody ballads at his piano with a skeletal backup band. This second disc displays the variety that the one disc version is sorely missing. ~ Bradley Torreano

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