Film Score Friday: ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross

Last year Trent Reznor lead a resurgence of main stream musicians turning to film scores. The 80’s saw a lot of this trend, most notably Danny Elfman, of Oingo Boingo fame and Christopher Franke of Tangerine Dream. The best two scores from 2010 came from popular musicians in Reznor’s The Social Network and Daft Punk’s Tron: Legacy. 2011 might be shaping up the same with one notable score by The Chemical Bros. already released.

Reznor is back again, with compatriot Atticus Ross, for another David Fincher score. This time writing the music for a film that seems much more up the ally of the Nine Inch Nails artist. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a dark, thrilling murder mystery that seems a [perfect fit for they style of music Ross and Reznor have made previously.

Much like The Social Network, this score is deceptively complex, with subtle tracks that wash over your mind like the blankets of snow that define the movie. The music is not overly orchestral, but that works to the advantage of the film, helping cement a ton of tension and keeping everything feeling a bit off.

One of the biggest highlights of the score is the opening titles track. The titles sequence is like a deranged, twisted James Bond opening, with the pulse pounding, and very excellent Immigrant Song playing over top. The song is a cover of the classic Led Zeppelin song, arranged by Reznor and sung by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It is quite possibly my favorite song of the year, and it is the perfect start to the movie and the score.

After the incredible opening track my enthusiasm does start to wain a little bit. One interesting thing about this soundtrack is that it is very very long. Nearly 40 tracks long, and a total run time nearly 3 hours long. This is great on one hand, seeing so much of the music from the movie make it to the soundtrack is amazing. Usually we get tremendously cut down versions of the scores for the soundtrack release, and this is a far more full version of the soundtrack than I was expecting.

The length is a bit of a double edge sword, however. A problem complete soundtracks can face is a lack of variety from track to track, when you are dealing with almost three hours of music from one movie the over all listening experience can suffer. You don’t notice a lack of variety in the music very often while watching the movie, and at the end of the day that is why this was written so this is not a deal breaker. It is just something I couldn’t ignore while listening to the score, as it was very long.

That said, the score is very good in context of the movie, and perfect for background music. It also has a lot of really intriguing tracks that are very unique for a film score. The music for this movie was not written in any traditional sense. It works very well with context, but much of it doesn’t translate to the same type of listening experience as other non-traditional scores. I was really hoping for a score that grips you audibly like the Hanna soundtrack. Aside from one or two choice tracks and the songs, as an independent listening experience I feel it falls short.

Three Favorite Tracks:

Immigrant Song by Karen O with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – No doubt about it, this is my favorite song on the album. This song is just so perfect for the movie, both musically and lyrically. It just fills the head with countless images from the movie, in much the same way the early trailers used the song to the same effect. It is a shame covers of old songs can’t be nominated for any Oscars because for my money this was the best song in any movie this year. There are some songs that are perfect work out or running songs, I have a feeling this song will be many people’s activity song of choice over the next few months.

The Seconds Drag by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – Not the best track on the album, not even the one I will listen to most in the future, but I love this track. It has a really great sense of motion. The track is a bunch of different beats and is very effective in pushing you forward. Almost like the ticking of a clock, no surprise given the title of the track, it just gets under your skin. You feel this track and that is what I love most about Reznor and Ross’ scores. They are more visceral then most score these days. It is unique, outside of the box music that increases the movie going experience.

Is Your Love Strong Enough? by How To Destroy Angels – Aside from the epic opening track, the soundtrack also features another song. A very beautiful little song by How to Destroy Angels. It starts with a single femal vocalist singing, and builds to a very smooth song that pulsates with a lot of the same juices that make the rest of the score so great. I really think songs like this and the opening track showcase that this music might be ripe for some artists to take as a background track for new songs. It would make for a very interesting experiment, and one that might greatly increase the appreciation for this score.

Least Favorite Track:

The Splinter by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – This is a prime example of a bit of music that is perfectly fine in context of the movie, but I can’t see my self ever choosing to listen to by itself. I want to reiterate that this isn’t a bad track, but like to many of the tracks on this soundtrack it just doesn’t translate to a separate listening experience. Ultimately that is where my biggest disappointment comes from.

At the end of the day this score is very good, and worthy of it’s nominations. However, as a separate listening experience it is far behind the recent film score works of Daft Punk, The Chemical Brothers and even Reznor and Ross’ previous score. It is unfrotuantly my least favorite of the Golden Globe nominated scores, and as such will probably win the award, and that would be just fine by me.

Final Score For The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo:

3.5 out of 5

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