I’m going to say something that may not be the most popular thing to say – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo soundtrack was way too long for me. I loved portions of it (especially the cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”). But at times I found myself losing interest or reaching for the track forward button. I have enjoyed Trent Reznor’s soundtrack work and think it holds a specific spot in the Nine Inch Nails canon – but compared to Ghosts or The Social Network – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meandered where it should have concluded or ended where I had hoped it would meander. Not a disaster by any means, I just wish it had been cut in half (this all could be due to a short attention span, I admit).
My two favorite instrumental records of all time are both by Stephen Jones of Babybird fame. Plastic Tablets 2002 acted as an impressionistic piece made of up 60+ very short tracks that ranged from orchestral pop to suicidal Nine Inch Nails dementia – all within the span of 10 to 60 second blurbs. 1985-2001 had a similar vibe but with the songs stretched out to 3 to 4 minutes to let the atmosphere permeate the proceedings. Beats intertwined with melody, always with a focus on atmosphere. With his release, No Questions, Sonny Lanegan has delivered what The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo did not (at least for me) – a concise soundtrack that leaves the listener energized. He has also found a spot along Stephen Jones on my list of “Top Instrumental Albums”.
The first thing I did before listening to the record was scan the track-listing. Intentionally or not, the song titles brought to mind other (very famous) artists –“My Favorite Death” brings to mind Jacques Brel and Scott Walker, “Low” brings to mind David Bowie, “Brown Sugar Experience” brings to mind The Rolling Stones. As frontman for the Nine Inch Nails influenced band White Pulp, I’d imagine Sonny is giving a nod to the artists who have influenced his varied body of work.
A few highlights:
Opening the record with “My Favorite Death” sets the tone – dramatic synths with well-timed piano refrains. A soundtrack for driving through icy landscapes and reflection. “Nightmare” has a clear Nine Inch Nails influence with its insistent industrial beat and background atmospherics. Sounds like a…uh…nightmare set somewhere in the depths of hell (or Los Angeles, CA where Sonny is based out of). “Claustrophobia” is a perfectly titled track as the synths and beats race towards making the listener feel suffocated – in a good way, of course. “The Dancing Cat” brings to mind The Cure with its insistent bass and dance-like beat. Think Faith era mixed with “The Caterpillar” off of The Top album. The album ends with a beautiful track entitled “Endless” A hopeful feeling permeates the music – we’ve been through hell and back with Sonny and he is telling us “Hey, it’s all OK – we made it”. An uplifting song perfectly executed.
Truth be told, this album would have worked nicely as the soundtrack to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Filmmakers and Hollywood bigwigs, take note – Sonny Lanegan is your man if you want a soundtrack that provides suspense and engages the audience on a visceral level. I look forward to hearing more instrumental tracks from this talented artist.
Verdict: Head Like a Hole
For Fans of: Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Stephen Jones, Babybird, Death of the Neighbourhood, The Streets, Pet Shop Boys, A Perfect Circle