The recent trend in the film industry is to hand over the reigns of film scores to pop stars and record producers to produce something original rather than just shoe-in previously recorded material. Whether its accessible (see Daft Punk's Tron: Legacy OST this year), straight up bizarre (see Animal Collective's Oddsac film "score"), or cinematically stunning (see Johnny Greenwood's There Will Be Blood film score), the results are always out of the ordinary. This year, what is being hailed by many as the best film of the year, David Fincher's The Social Network, also features the best soundtrack of the year with music by Nine Inch Nails rock-veteran Trent Reznor and record producer Atticus Finch. The early official trailers that featured cover of Radiohead's "Creep", sung by a choir and another that featured Kanye West's "Power", seemed like almost too perfect of fits to be true, but we ended up with is something far more ethereal and ominous. In so many ways, Trent Reznor and David Fincher are both two sides of the same coin and seemingly unlikely contributors to a film about the dramatization of the creation of Facebok. From Fincher claiming it to be a John Hughes-style melodrama to what the early overwrought trailers were showing, it was difficult to see what the director who is known for exploring the dark and psychological side of humanity in films like Fight Club would be doing with such a film. Meanwhile, in seeking music for the film, Fincher found something of a kindred spirit in the dark-ambient, instrumental Nine Inch Nails album, Ghosts, and before too long, Reznor and Ross would be creating the soundscapes behind which Mark Zuckerberg would exist.
Reviewing standalone film scores can be quite difficult at times because it is always the sign of a great film score when it is difficult to stand on its own, divorced from the film itself. In the same way that Fincher himself turned the unlikely story into something raw and relevant, Reznor's ominous textures and dubstep synths are so caught up in the characters and motifs of The Social Network that they turn a social networking website into a futuristic techno world where Mark Zuckerburg is the computer hacker hero of a cyberpunk tale of corporate greed, vengeance, and betrayal. What Reznor and Ross do is revolutionary in that they provide a space and context for the masterful script by Aaron Sorkin and the excellent performances of the cast to interact and say a lot of meaningful things about communication, technology, and friendship in the 21st century without ever saying them at all. In the first track, "Hands Cover Bruise", the innocent piano twinkles that begin the film is slowly choked and washed out by buzzing electronics and hysteric distortion that sounds like Death Cab for Cutie trying to wrestle over the Joker theme from the Dark Knight that is slowly taking over. Its hard not to imagine the piano themes that are threaded throughout the soundtrack as representing Zuckerburg who becomes both overwhelmed by his rise to fame while also remaining somewhat unchanged throughout. The tracks that follow range from upbeat electronic dance tracks that demand attention ("In Motion") and tastefully tense atmospheric tracks ("3:14 Every Night") that quietly stand in the background. And let's not forget the already infamous inclusion of an insanely schizophrenic version of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" that accompanies a particularly zany scene of the film. The film would a much different film if these guys were not involved and we should all be thankful for that. In conjuction with the film, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have created a film score that has sold me on two things that were never portrayed so convincingly. One, that the true "21st century schizo man" is not Kanye West, but instead Mark Zuckerberg. And two, that we are an entire generation of people singing the lyrics of "Creep".
Here is "Hands Cover Bruise":
And because its too good not to see: