*** 1/2; VARIOUS ARTISTS, "Natural Born Killers," soundtrack ( Nothing/Interscope )
This has been a career year for Trent Reznor, who exhibits as an artist and producer the daring instincts and rich musicality of Prince back in the days when his records mattered. Leading Nine Inch Nails, Reznor has already given us the best album so far of 1994 ("The Downward Spiral") and a mud-caked Woodstock '94 performance as captivating as the legendary Who and Hendrix sets from the original Woodstock festival.
When someone's on this hot a creative streak, you want to monitor his every move--and this soundtrack, from Oliver Stone's movie about murderers becoming the ultimate superstars, rewards you with images as anxious and disturbing as Reznor's own albums with Nine Inch Nails.
In this hauntingly seductive work, which includes old tracks by such varied acts as Patti Smith, the Cowboy Junkies and Dr. Dre, Reznor--the producer--weaves music, dialogue and sound bites from the film into a conceptualized expression about these restless, explosive times.
The album's mood moves from the sweet optimism of Patsy Cline's "Back in Baby's Arms" to the dark obsession of Leonard Cohen's "Waiting for the Miracle" to splices of dialogue as violent as the gunshots that follow them, all hurtling at you with the speed of a car racing down the lost highway on a final, fatal ride.
It's harrowing and frightening, mirroring at times the hopelessness of the doomed characters in Bruce Springsteen's stark "Nebraska" album, only more disturbing because Springsteen's characters seemed the innocent victims of an indifferent society. Here, the characters wonder if their destructive ways weren't programmed by their genes. "I guess I was born . . . born bad," Juliette Lewis, the actress, sings with bittersweet resolve.
But Reznor's own "Burn"--which was written for the movie--defines the desperation best: This world rejects me / This world threw me away / This world never gave me a chance / This world gonna have to pay . . . .
A soundtrack like no other.
New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).