In the mid Nineties, Trent Reznor was rock’s preeminent enfant terrible – a figure in black who covered himself in mud, sang “I wanna fuck you like an animal” and midwifed Marilyn Manson into the world. A quarter of a century later, he’s an Oscar-winning film composer and a dad (and he’s still a threatening, vibrant force of nature when he gets onstage). The score he composed for Jonah Hill’s Mid90s movie with fellow Nine Inch Nail Atticus Ross couldn’t be farther aesthetically from Nine Inch Nails in mid Nineties. Its four short and surprisingly sweet moodpieces are marked by idyllic piano playing, Eno-esque ambiance and tremulant, fluttering sound effects. Its closest mid-Nineties touchpoint might be the new agey CDs you could buy at the end of the aisle at Target at the time, though it’s much more enjoyable because, as a Trent Reznor production, it overflows with melancholy. And in some ways, it’s not too far removed from the piano interludes he included on The Downward Spiral – there are just more major chords.
The most interesting tracks are the closer, “Further Along,” which is a great stand-alone instrumental, full of light and shade and singed atmospherics, and “Big Wide World,” a beautiful piano ballad. Divorced from the wild antics of the kids in Hill’s movie, it’s a great standalone piece by Reznor and Ross who seem to revel here in stretching their wings beyond the icy soundscapes of their recordings for The Social Network and Gone Girl.