Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross - The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)


While it felt like the end of an era when Nine Inch Nails retired (from live shows, at least) in 2009, any doubts about NIN leader Trent Reznor's continued artistic output were quickly allayed. First came How to Destroy Angels, a joint project with NIN collaborator Atticus Ross and West Indian Girl vocalist/T-Rez wife Mariqueen Maandig. Then Reznor and Ross took home the Oscar for their score for David Fincher's The Social Network. The duo will surely earn similar accolades for their latest collaboration, a triple-disc soundtrack to Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo adaptation.

Reznor has been pushing selling music directly to fans for a while now, and he even gave away digital copies of NIN's The Slip for free, but Girl is still pretty darn generous of him. Even if fans don't want to shell out for the expensive super ultra aggro crag edition, the standard triple-disc version is priced at $14. That's a deal in stereo. Of course, the downside to all this music is that, well, some parts of the score don't hold up when separated from the film. That's not even really a criticism; that's just law of averages.

The record quickly establishes itself as a mixed bag with the first two songs on disc one, a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" and the original composition "She Reminds Me of You." "Immigrant Song," assisted on the mic by Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O, is a hard-charging industrial hit. Anybody jonesing for a NIN stomper gets their fix here, and O's raw, sensual delivery is a welcome addition. But after all that high energy, "She Reminds Me of You" kicks in and… rocks a xylophone? Wind chimes? It's thoroughly ambient, creepy music, which is great for the film, but it's awfully jarring after "Immigrant Song."

In the digital age, however, listeners can just cue up whatever running order they prefer. While some of the instrumental fare has a meandering, background quality to it akin to NIN's Ghosts I-IV, there are also quite a few pieces that develop into something compelling on their own. The second disc, in particular, is a strong 56 minutes of twisting, moody music, full of dread and atmosphere, on par with some of Hans Zimmer's latest work. For those who have seen the movie or read the book, these dark entries certainly suit the material.

Not to belabor the point or anything, but this score is nearly three flippin' hours long. It can be a chore to get through all at once, but it's also a collection that rewards those who dare to revisit it. For every bit of instrumental noodling, there are tracks like "A Thousand Details," which quietly build into intense bursts of dramatic fare. While Girl arguably could have been edited a little--a two-disc "best of" would have probably been more immediately satisfying--having the entire score is still a nice reward all the same.