I have to admit, I am a huge fan boy of Trent Reznor. I have been since hearing Nine Inch Nails‘ Downward Spiral and even their dodgier albums (anything after With Teeth in my opinion) have done little to change that, especially as Reznor seems to have come back stronger than ever with new band, How To Destroy Angels. I was as surprised, yet elated, as anyone when awards were won for his soundtrack to The Social Network, so despite the potential for this review to be biased, I have to say, that as I view Reznor as a modern day music icon, and with his ever increasing mainstream popularity, there is a very high standard that needs to be lived up to on this, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Soundtrack.
It starts well enough with a cover of Immigrant Song with Karen O on vocals. Such a cover could be sacrilege to many but I actually think that like Johnny Cash did with Reznor’s Hurt, he and Atticus Ross have managed to put this dark, gothic twist on it that makes it completely unlike the original (although I’m sure many will argue with me over this) and I personally think Karen O does a fantastic job vocally where many definitely would have fallen short.
The rest of the soundtrack, well, it’s hard to review. Firstly, it’s completely vocal-less. Secondly, it’s nearly three hours’ worth of music (which if you are buying the album for ten pounds is really some bang for your buck) and thirdly, well, I haven’t watched the film. I can say this much though, there are some very obvious Reznor touches, stuff that harks back to the sonic atmosphere that was created on The Fragile album and chord progressions that are so obviously Nine Inch Nails that it hurts. It’s often quite low key, sparse even, haunting, putting you on a constant edge, and when it does pick up it becomes an even more thrilling listen and I think a lot of this can be put down to Reznors’ more deep set gothic tendencies.
After hours and hours of listening to this release I’m not so much wanting to see the film (although I do), but more so dark, desperate images being flickered on some screen behind my CD player, the soundtrack evokes that sort of feeling, a brooding sense that something is wrong and I almost want or need to know what that is, but yet if this is the music to that image, I’m scared to. So in many ways, I think that this soundtrack has accomplished more than most, because it can stand alone, it doesn’t need the movie to conjure up a relationship with the music because it creates its own story as such.
There are some very good, young, more alternative musicians creating soundtracks for the Hollywood industry like Clint Mansell or John Murphy, and that isn’t even mentioning the continuing greatness of the likes of old favourite John Williams. Trent Reznor isn’t quite in the league of Williams (and probably won’t ever be) , nor can I ever see him writing iconic songs like Mansell did for Requiem for a Dream and Murphy did for 28 Days Later but still, he is clearly onto something with this soundtrack malarkey and if he could perhaps leave his roots behind him he might really surprise himself, and us.