The best time for judging a movie soundtrack solely on its musical merits is before you've seen the film. Actually, it's probably the only time that you can even give it a fair listen without your mind conjuring up images from the film that were either good and bad and putting their own sway on the individual tracks. Of course, part of how a soundtrack works is also how well it fits with the film, which is why the Dust Brothers have created a winner with this one.
It's actually kind of strange that the duo opted to go with a soundtrack for their full-length debut of original music (they've been around for nearly 10 years doing remixes and producing other work like Becks Odelay and the Beastie Boys' Pauls Boutique). In the time that they've been around, they've become almost a household name in music field, even though they've never really released anything more than a single on their own. When I heard nearly half a year ago that they were attached to the David Fincher film, I was drooling in anticipation. Not only was he one of my favorite directors, but I was really wondering what the Dust Brothers could come up with for original music (instead of just leaving their grubby handprints all over everyone else's). They more I thought about it, the more it seemed like a great match between the visual stylings of Fincher and the aural ones of the Dust Brothers.
The soundtrack itself clocks in at just under an hour long, although after hearing it in it's entirety, I almost have reason to believe that it was cut down from a lot more. Like the film, it jumps all over the place and comes at you from different directions all the time, sometimes favoring a full-on assault of sound, while at other times it's content to linger in ambience for awhile.
The disc starts off with a faint buzzing noise and a soft beat before dropping off into almost nothing and revving up again with the original parts amplified and a touch of horns thrown over the top. Of course, it doesn't stop there and ends up going through about 3 more little parts before winding down into a mellow finale. It's sketchy-sounding and fits perfectly with it's title "Who Is Tyler Durden?" The disc revs up even more with the second track "Homework." With a little lick of guitar and a nice beat, it moves along for almost two minutes before falling off into yet another section with distorted horns and a bit of Rhodes organ. "What Is Fight Club?" oozes with a nice foreboding synth, while "Single Serving Jack" kicks some old school beats for awhile before slowing down to a more laid-back beat and some scratching and pianos over the end.
Changing up styles yet again, "Corporate World" sounds like a television jingle gone bad with it's drum-machine samba rhythm and little chimes. Even it can't stay that way for long, though, and eventually breaks off into a sludging track. "Psycho Boy Jack" steps things up a notch again with an uber-tweaked little acid-sound and some meaty guitars. From there, the disc slows down a bit, including a very nice downtempo track entitled "Jack's Smirking Revenge." "Stealing Fat" almost feels out of place coming up next with it's thrashing guitar ending and distorted screaming. From there, it goes into the murky "Chemical Burn" and seducto "Marla" (fitting nicely as a theme track) before totally kicking it with a vocodor on the first part of "Space Monkeys." The second half of the track turns into what sounds like a beastly mix of carnival freakshow music. The album closes out with "Finding The Bomb," and the duo ups the tempo one final time and drops some harsher noises into the mix.
Overall, it's a great soundtrack whether you've seen the film or not. It might be better to listen to when you're having a short attention span, as the styles change-up so often, but it's very well constructed (what else did you expect from the Dust Brothers?) and just makes me even more interested in what their debut proper will sound like (if they're even working on one).