I didn’t find myself a fan of Nine Inch Nails until around 2005. Before that I always felt that the nihilism and angst was too overwrought. I couldn’t get into Trent Reznor’s techno/industrial dirges, even when he had a line in a song like “I want to fuck you like an animal/I want to feel you from the inside”. With a line like that I thought for sure I’d dig it. Turns out, nope. But in 2005 something changed. NINs With Teeth connected with me. I dug the live feel of the record. I dug Reznor’s more clear-eyed vision of anger. He didn’t seem to be submerged in a pool of self-hate anymore. He seemed to be aiming that anger outward, into the world. I could appreciate that. The following year he dropped Year Zero, a little electronic classic in my book. He was aiming directly at the Bush administration and their turning the country towards a “Big Brother”-like future. That very next year Reznor put out Ghosts I-IV. This record was a double album that was a series of soundscapes, presented as little vignettes of music. It truly came across as a score to some long lost movie.
I think Ghosts was Reznor and Atticus Ross getting their feet wet in the idea of film scoring. In 2010 that idea came to fruition when Reznor and Ross scored David Fincher’s The Social Network. That score was a heavy dose of synthesizer and cinematic techno. It’s a stunning score, and one that helped to move that film along wonderfully. With Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo I wasn’t as impressed. A well done film, but the Swedish original was a much better portrayal of Stieg Larsson’s novel. And Noomi Rapace captured Lisbeth’s analytical and methodical personality better than Roony Mara. The Reznor/Ross score was good, but as a standalone it was a rather repetitive listen. Fortunately Fincher worked with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross again with 2014s Gone Girl. For my ears, it’s the finest work Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have done thus far. It was also one hell of a movie.
So just a quick aside about David Fincher. I had been on board with Fincher ever since I saw Se7en in the theater back in 1995. I felt it was a masterful film; dark, taught, and suspenseful as hell. Andrew Kevin Walker’s script helped, but Fincher’s vision came through. I loved The Game as well with Michael Douglas and Sean Penn. Then in 1999 he laid on us Fight Club, a tour de force(at the time) of gutter violence, jet black humor, and a biting social commentary on conformity and commodity. So then a few years later, after the wife and I had a couple kids, we pop in the Fight Club DVD one night for shits and giggles and I got maybe 35 minutes into it and realized I absolutely hated that film. At first I thought I’d lost my taste for Fincher, but I realized it wasn’t him but the source material. Chuck Palahniuk’s novel left a nasty taste in my mouth. Maybe I was getting too old for that much snarkiness or the sharp sarcasm just wasn’t getting through my brain anymore, but I’d just as soon line someone’s litter box with that movie than watch it again. Fortunately Fincher got me back with Zodiac. Then from The Social Network on he’s been back in my good graces. With Gone Girl he seems to have solidified his visionary style. The story, without giving anything away, is about a husband and wife who’s marriage and lives crumble when the wife goes missing and the husband is the prime suspect in her disappearance. The story is told in various flashbacks that tell differing views on their marriage and relationships together. It’s one of those movies that grabs you by the short and curlies and never lets go.
Besides the film itself, the score by Reznor and Ross is understated, sometimes minimal, and ever evolving. Listening to it today I’m reminded of so many different composers’ styles. Unlike their scores for The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl is an understated piece. There’s more space in the pieces that allow it to breathe and stretch out around you, slowly filling in the nooks and crannies. Musically it’s like a cross between John Cage, Philip Glass, and Thomas Newman. With Reznor you always get Reznor. He’s never trying to be anyone else but himself. He hides beautiful melodies under the moaning of distortion, feedback, and drone. Ross takes the individual elements that Reznor gathers and turns them in a sonic tapestry. One of my absolute favorite pieces on this double LP is “Like Home”. It’s this slowly building piece of agonizing beauty that as it moves along begins to be engulfed by a sonic howl, until the mournful synth melody that opens the piece is completely devoured. For me, this piece sums up the whole feel of the film itself. A quiet turmoil that ends up swallowing itself.
While I’ve come to appreciate the older work of Trent Reznor and NIN, I’m still more partial to his later output. In particular, his work as a film composer has made me a super fan. His Gone Girl S/T is one of the best film scores I’ve heard in a long time. It’s a great standalone piece as well, and it’s enjoyed many spins on my turntable since I first picked it up(and it will probably continue to get spins for some time.)
Editor’s Note: I’d only recently watched the film Gone Girl. I’ve had the score quite some time before the movie made its way to my Blu Ray player. This is actually a good way to approach a film score. If you can listen to it on its own before you see the film you can come to appreciate its place in the film far more than had you never heard it going into the movie.
Just my geeky opinion, folks.