Mmm Good!

Dust Brothers offer promising debut as film composers.

Scoring a movie is, if nothing else, a compromise-driven process, probably

more so than any other musical endeavor — scenes constantly change

in length during editing, tracks must be reshaped again and again.

And yet established stars are flocking to the big screen, putting their

music behind such pictures as "Stigmata" (Billy Corgan), "The Story of

Us" (Eric Clapton) and now "Fight Club," whose incidental music was written

by none other than the Dust Brothers.

That's right, the not-actual-brothers, John King and Mike Simpson —

responsible for much of the '90s most attention-grabbing music, from

"Where It's At" to "Mmm Bop," — worked with "Fight Club" director

David Fincher to craft a suitably ambiguous musical backing to Fincher's

gray-area thriller/think-piece. As a whole, the soundtrack is surprisingly

cohesive and consistent.

Which doesn't mean it's all that engaging as a stand-alone LP. Simpson

says Fincher "wanted the music to be somewhat confusing — to have

both a disturbing and soothing effect. He didn't want the music to ever

clue you in as to whether what you were watching was good or bad." That's

a difficult mandate — like colors or words, sounds are heavy with

our cultural baggage, and specific sounds provoke specific reactions,

whether we want them to or not. (It was Spinal Tap's Nigel Tufnel, after

all, who said that D-minor was the saddest of all chords.)

To create the ambiguity Fincher wanted, the Dust Brothers had to throw

many of their normal tricks out the window. They're masters, after all,

of the musical bait-and-switch: creating one set of musical expectations

in the listener but delivering another one altogether; this is the

Odelay formula in a nutshell. Fincher asked them to erase expectations

all together.

Without their pastiche arsenal, and not wanting to use sampled material

(for copyright reasons), the Dust Brothers used all original music, save

for some Gregorian chants.

The 15 atmospheric pieces are all spare — carefully so, not quickie

cut-and-paste jobs — and aren't immediately engaging. As Fincher

wanted, a lot of the music ends up being a little confusing, or at least

neither here nor there. Sometimes sounding uncannily like David Byrne's

score for "The Catherine Wheel," the crisp beats and wispy overtones can

be just slightly paranoia-inducing.

There's the occasional amusing touch, like the electro samba on "Corporate

World" (RealAudio

excerpt), but for the most part, this is the most sedate work the Dust

Brothers have done since their work on Creeper Lagoon's I Become Small

and Go.

Things only really heat up on the last track, "Finding the Bomb"

(RealAudio

excerpt), as the music descends first into chaos, then into

cacophony.

That the Fight Club soundtrack as a stand alone isn't completely

engaging means the Dust Brothers did their job well. It's a promising

debut for them as film composers — the music fits the film like a

glove, an almost uncomfortably tight one.