Documentary Evidence

Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' CD artwork

album // The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

null corporation / mute artists | 6xlp/cd null002 / stumm442 | 26/12/2011 | track listing

The key question for me, approaching this soundtrack to David Fincher's adaptation of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross was 'do I really have to?'. This question arose for various reasons, namely: the fact that I have studiously avoided Stieg Larsson's books because of the same hype filter than has seen me avoid all Harry Potter novels; the fact that I will never go to see the movie, largely again because of hype and because of Daniel Craig (plus I didn't like the yawnfest that was The Social Network, the last Fincher / Reznor collaboration, and because I only rate Seven of Fincher's movies); the fact that I stopped listening to Nine Inch Nails in about 1996 when, in a first year University bout of rage / misery (caused by a girl) I began only listening to that band (said girl was the one who told me it was dangerous to focus my emotions using aggressive music, which prompted me to rid myself of my entire NIN collection); the fact that this soundtrack is three hours long, around forty-five minutes longer than the film itself, making this yet another expansive release (cf Plastikman's Arkives boxset) which that I find difficult to find the inclination to approach. But review it I shall, since The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was released by Mute in the UK and Europe.

Reznor described the soundtrack as having 'a really interesting, organic, layered feel' and that's undoubtedly true. If I cast my mind back to The Downward Spiral, Nine Inch Nails's 1994 bleak opus, one of the most interesting aspects was the addition of snatches of sound design in between the album's tracks, arriving often unexpectedly as songs collapsed in on themselves. There you would get snatches of what sounded like the reverberations from a broken piano, atmospheric interruptions and skittering noise loops. A lot of that same vibe permeates Reznor and Ross's work here, as if they took those mysterious cues and stretched them inventively into a soundtrack. The same feeling of hopeless desperation that permeated The Downward Spiral is highly evident here, giving this collection not only a sense of dark mystery but also an air of anguished misery. The trademark Reznor elements are occasionally enhanced by processed strings, breathy female sighs and a whole array of more organic and often unidentifiable sound sources, all of which support a somewhat tension-filled sound world.

Like all the best soundtracks, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo contains different moods according to the scene in question; for this soundtrack that translates into sections of near-emptiness, dominated by beguiling single piano notes or bell sounds which provide the requisite air of mystery, whereas tension creeps in through more frantically-worked pieces; those pieces tend to take the dense, cloying style of Nine Inch Nails - rising drums, layers of groaning feedback, whining guitar textures, loops of noisy electronics, the general air of a nihilistic machine operating wildly out of control (check out the bludgeoning bass of 'We Could Wait Forever' - and creates a filmic body music suitable for any chase scene you care to think of. I'm loathe to describe this as 'industrial' or 'dark ambient', but the truth is that this is at times both, and in general somewhere in between.

Again, as with all the best soundtracks, this stands up well on its own, divorced of the scenes and context that these cues are meant to augment (and goodness knows, some of those scenes must be pretty violent judging by the music here). Quite how Fincher took this expansive collection of dark pieces and whittled them down into the film's on-screen soundtrack is unfathomable.

Three hours of this is a lot to take. This is an incredible intense, even sometimes harrowing, listening experience even without visuals and can leave you feeling drained. The endurance test is potentially broken up by two vocal tracks - an incendiary version of Led Zepelin's 'Immigrant Song' by Reznor and Ross with Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O on vocals and 'Is Your Love Strong Enough?' by How To Destroy Angels. somewhat unfortunately, these bookend the album, giving no break or respite between those two end points.

As if a triple CD soundtrack wasn't enough content, Reznor's own Null Corporation (who handled this release in the States) also released a six-LP boxset, in the tradition of the over-the-top sets created for the likes of Nine Inch Nails' Ghosts album; quite who would ever conceive of shelling out around £150 on such an artefact is quite beyond my comprehension, and why anyone would want a razor blade signed by Reznor and Ross is similarly something that doesn't make sense at all to me. Perhaps Nine Inch Nails fans are just as slavish to the need for elaborate formats as Depeche Mode fans have proven to be.

The video for 'Immigrant Song' can be viewed below.

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1.1 Immigrant Song
1.2 She Reminds Me Of You
1.3 People Lie All The Time
1.4 Pinned And Mounted
1.5 Perihelion
1.6 What If We Could?
1.7 With The Flies
1.8 Hidden In Snow
1.9 A Thousand Details
1.10 One Particular Moment
1.11 I Can't Take It Anymore
1.12 How Brittle The Bones
1.13 Please Take Your Hand Away
2.1 Cut Into Pieces
2.2 The Splinter
2.3 An Itch
2.4 Hypomania
2.5 Under The Midnight Sun
2.6 Aphelion
2.7 You're Here
2.8 The Same As The Others
2.9 A Pause For Reflection
2.10 While Waiting
2.11 The Seconds Drag
2.12 Later Into The Night
2.13 Parallel Timeline With Alternate Outcome
3.1 Another Way Of Caring
3.2 A Viable Construct
3.3 Revealed In The Thaw
3.4 Millennia
3.5 We Could Wait Forever
3.6 Oraculum
3.7 Great Bird Of Prey
3.8 The Heretics
3.9 A Pair Of Doves
3.10 Infiltrator
3.11 The Sound Of Forgetting
3.12 Of Secrets
3.13 Is Your Love Strong Enough - How To Destroy Angels

(c) 2012 MJA Smith / Documentary Evidence