Dime Store Nihilists

I suppose the fact that I spent the money I did on the Mondo release of the Fight Club S/T would put me in bad graces with the film’s titular angry imaginary best friend Tyler Durden(oops, spoiler. If you haven’t seen the film by now you obviously don’t have internet on the compound in which you live so it doesn’t really matter.) Anyways, I don’t really care what Tyler Durden thinks because I have a vinyl problem and when I saw the nifty unpackaging video Mondo posted I was pretty much a goner. “Here’s my digits. Where’s…my…vinyl?!” If you haven’t seen that exquisite piece of marketing, here you go:

Okay, so I feel like kind of a sucker about this whole thing, but man the Dust Brothers completely went above and beyond for this score. Truth be told, I didn’t even remember the music from Fight Club. In fact I’d pretty much written off the movie altogether after trying to watch it around 5 years ago. It had been years up to that point since I’d last seen the cult-ish hit by auteur David Fincher and on a night when the wife and I didn’t know what to watch I thought I’d throw the two-disc special edition DVD into the player for fun.

I loved the movie the first time I watched it, which was June of 200o. We were newly anointed parents with an itch to spend some money and get out of the house, so we headed to Best Buy and bought two new cameras(one digital and one 35mm film) to document our happy, exhaustive, mentally draining, but ultimately happy first years as new parents. A quick browse through the movies and I found the Fight Club Special Edition DVD so I grabbed that, too. Cause you know, nihilistic violence and a middle finger to consumerism was what I was all about as I was checking out at the Best Buy.

Anyways, this movie knocked me on my ass then. The deadpan gallows humor, the creative cinematography, the middle finger to corporate America, and the overall bloody smirk the film shoved down our throats was just what an overweight, new father and employee of the “machine” needed to see in June of 2000. Fincher had(and still does) a knack for framing a shot and creating something unique for the  big screen. Everything about Fight Club just screamed “This is the future of film, people!” I was already a fan of Fincher prior to Fight Club. Se7en was one of my favorite movies of the 90s, and The Game was another visceral movie experience with Fincher’s unique dark cinema color palate. Fight Club was proof to me that Fincher was bound for great things. Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, Jared Leto, Meatloaf, and a slew of other great actors came together and made this movie the monster that it was.

So, back to 5 years ago.

About 30 minutes into Fight Club I shut it off. I’m not sure who I was back in 2000 when I watched it, but that guy and me five years ago would’ve disagreed wholeheartedly on our interpretations of the film. I was kind of appalled at what I was watching five years ago. The gallows humor just seemed tasteless. The middle finger to corporate America just seemed empty and shallow; more like a wink and a smirk than actually raging against the machine. The direction, cinematography, and acting were all still good, but the overall vibe just made me a little sick. The irony of spending the extra cash on a Special Edition verison of a film that extols the virtues of nihilism, chaos, and the complete rejection of consumerism was a little too much for me to bare. I even took a shot at Palahniuk’s book to see if maybe there was something deeper within the pages that the movie could explain. Maybe I’m just not jaded enough to get it anymore. Maybe had there been more of an emphasis of the ridiculousness of it all I could appreciate it more.

Or not.

dsc04992So here I am, five years later with the Fight Club S/T spinning on the turntable and not an ounce of irony is touching me. Why? Because even though this is the score to Fincher’s flick, this is also a hell of a trip hop album by two guys that changed the game in terms of innovative album building and production.

The Dust Brothers(aka Michael Simpson and John King) have helped to create some of the most iconic albums of my youth. Odeley by Beck pretty much told the world that Beck Hansen was more than just a one-album wonder. It really sort of defined Generation X, for better or worse. The record was solid start to finish. It was also a huge success. Or “yuge”, in the Trump age. Anyways, this wasn’t the album that made me a Dust Brothers fanboy. No, that distinction goes to Paul’s Boutique, a record that Time Magazine rated as one of the best records of all time. I really can’t argue with that. It took three Jewish punks from New York and turned them from drunk Frat guys to stoned and trippy harbingers of the new musical frontier. There was still the college humor and sophomoric goofiness that defined them on License To Ill, but the production had turned into this labyrinthine cacophony of dusty samples and enlightened fart jokes that sort of sounded like Yauch, Diamond, and Horovitz having their heads opened up to the universe for the first time in their lives. The work Simpson and King did on that album is this massive patchwork of funk and rock samples carefully sewn together with THC resin, LSD, cheap beer, and a drive to push things to the next level. I don’t think this album could be made today with all of the licensing issues, so it stands as this shining beacon of creativity and an album from simpler era.

dsc04985Having said all of that, why wouldn’t I buy The Dust Brothers’ score to Fight Club? It really seems to be a no-brainer. Who knows, maybe I’ll sit down and watch Fight Club here soon. It’s been 5 years. Maybe seeing it with newer eyes I might not find it as reprehensible. Stranger things have happened.

Gone Girl Gone

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.

13576319_1033705853403327_465641357_nI 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.

13576437_1033705830069996_864947323_nBesides 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.