Category Archives: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

3.5/5

2011

In the early 1990s, few would have pictured Trent Reznor winning an Academy Award for Best Original Score. Whether he was splattered with mud at Lollapalooza 1991 or making FCC-baiting music videos, Reznor seemed too confrontational to ever settle into scoring something like a big-budget picture, let alone having a knack for it. But a decade later, as time turned him from a punk into a veteran, Reznor and his longtime collaborator Atticus Ross scored David Fincher’s 2010 film, The Social Network, and they did it on their own terms. It was a moody, pensive record, weaving electronic and organic instruments together, with equal parts melody and atmosphere. It was unconventional for a major film score, but it was just that breath of fresh air that many (including the Academy) revered, and Fincher signed Reznor and Ross to score his next project: an adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s crime novel, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

On the surface, the score from Dragon Tattoo isn’t too different from that of The Social Network: it’s still a shape-shifting, textured record with just as many piano chords as bursts of feedback. That being said, aside from the presence of computer hackers, the story of Facebook’s origin is much different than a murder mystery involving rape, incest and Nazism, and there’s an appropriate shift in tone here. This is dark and often unsettling music, often made up of nothing more than drones, buzz, metallic clatter, sparse music-box melodies and a thick layer of melancholy or dread, depending on what the scene called for. In other words, it’s not something you put on for a shot of energy, and with its stressful atmospherics, it may not be suitable background noise for a late-night stroll, unless panic attacks are your thing. But the neat trick here, and a testament to Reznor and Ross’ musicality, is that The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo isn’t a particularly difficult listen. No matter how claustrophobic it gets, the duo exercises great control throughout, building tension and fear rapidly but pulling away before things get too out of hand. Plus, even though individual tracks aren’t important in a record all about shifting dynamics, the two covers that bookend the album act as points of entry for the uninitiated. Opening with Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” Reznor proves that the years haven’t dulled his blade, surrounding guest vocalist Karen O’s voice in a flurry of ferocious noise and industrial drums. Meanwhile, the cover of Bryan Ferry’s touching “Is Your Love Strong Enough?,” which features Reznor’s wife (and How To Destroy Angels bandmate) Mariqueen Maandig, is easily the most pop-oriented thing on the record.

The only real, major complaint about the score is its length. At nearly 3 hours (!) and 39 tracks (!!), it actually runs a bit longer than the film itself (!!!). So while Dragon Tattoo succeeds as a film score, it doesn’t seem designed to be listened to as a standalone record, especially since there isn’t much variation from track to track. This isn’t to say that it’s boring or repetitive—Reznor and Ross are skilled enough to keep things interesting, bringing in the tearful “What If We Could?” and the aggressive “Infiltrator” at just the right moments—but the album doesn’t justify its gargantuan run time, considering a pick of any handful of songs is likely to give the listener the same effect. All 39 tracks are filled with quality music, evoking the suspense and tension of the film, and for fans of Reznor and the film, there is much to delight in. Yet, there simply isn’t enough here to compel you to listen through to the end every time, and it’s hard to imagine many listeners returning to this record in anything other than small batches.

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