Beyond Fright: A Look Back At David Lynch’s LOST HIGHWAY Soundtrack


Very few films affect me the way that David Lynch’s 1997 mystery/thriller (I consider it a horror film) LOST HIGHWAY does.  Maybe it was the adventure I had to go through to see it (read about that  here), or maybe its surreal, noir-like mood and tone of the film that made it so very easy to rope me in, leaving a large imprint in my mind. While the film itself can stand so very firmly on its own, it was made even more effective and chilling, by what is, in my opinion, one of the greatest soundtrack of all time. A perfect compilation, and an even more perfect companion to the film, the mix of Angelo Badalamenti and Barry Adamson’s score, and a hell of a lot of great bands flow together perfectly, making it a soundtrack that deserves attention, even seventeen years later.

Beginning with noise, the album then heads into its melancholy opener, David Bowie’s “I’m Deranged“, a song that builds you up, then slowly fades into the 2nd track, the Trent Reznor created “Videodrones: Questions“. While the opening Bowie song establishes a mood, “Videodrones: Questions“, serves as more of an eerie segue between “I’m Deranged” and the third track, the great Nine Inch Nails song,  “The Perfect Drug“.

Following “The Perfect Drug“, listeners are then given Angelo Badalamenti’s jazz-filled, soft then chaotic “Red Bats with Teeth“, followed by somber, ethereal, and aptly titled “Haunting and Heartbreaking” track, one that wouldn’t feel out of place had it been in TWIN PEAKS instead.  Fading into “Eye“, a smashing pumpkins track recorded just as they were heading into their electronic phase. It’s one of my favorite Pumpkins songs, and fits the film very well. In fact, while some soundtracks are just compilations of singles, designed to cash in on a film and promote the bands, every single track on LOST HIGHWAY not only fits the film perfectly, but is at the same time, a very cohesive album. I once played the entire soundtrack to a friend and not knowing it WAS a soundtrack, he mentioned how great of a mixtape it was.

When Badalamenti’s “Dub Driving” starts, it takes the listener to chill time, as it’s something that would play in a noir-film, something in a smokey bar, a femme fatale…not far off from how the song is actually used in the real film. Following that, are three songs that are quite interesting as a triptych in itself, the jazzy “Mr. Eddy’s Theme Parts 1 &2” with Lou Reed’s cover of the Doc Pomus classic, “This Magic Moment” sandwiched in between. It’s such a different tone that strangely works very well as a three-piece, before the haunting Badalamenti track “Fred and Renee Make Love” kicks in, giving one eerie piece of music over one interesting sex scene in the film. Never being someone who goes for the obvious, Lynch and soundtrack producer Trent Reznor then give listeners Marilyn Manson’s “Apple of Sodom“, a solid as ever track recorded during the band’s Antichrist Superstar-era, definitely one of the highlights of the album.

If Satanic rock doesn’t flip your skirt up, the soundtrack then goes into some lounge territory with “Insensatez“, a song by Bossa Nova godfather Antonio Carlos Jobin, giving listeners a real chill moment, before Barry Adamson’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes” hits, raising the level slightly, and preparing listeners to what’s next: another Marilyn Manson song, this time a cover of the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins classic, “I Put a Spell on You” (taken from Manson’s “Smells Like Children” EP). While some might wonder why the soundtrack is so schizophrenic in its song selections, it fits the film perfectly, as the “Who is who” element of Lynch’s film warrants songs that might confuse listeners as much as the film might. It’s like I stated earlier, a perfect companion to the film, with each song lending itself to being a part of the film’s fabric.

The Badalamenti-composed duo of “Fats Revisited“, and “Fred’s World”  are great examples of just how versatile the composer can be, with the first one being a piano-led “Aw Shucks”, “good ol’ Boy” song and the second, an otherworldy, completely haunting and beautiful piece of music that completely pulls a solemn emotion out of you. Not wanting listeners to get comfortable, we then get a clip of Robert Blake’s Mystery Man laughing, before German metallers Rammstein’s “Rammstein” track throws a great big “wtf” in the air, and giving you a “let’s start a fight!” feeling. It’s a moment that always brings a smile to my face, not because I’m a fan (I’m not), but because of how oddly it fits the up and down, left to right, all over the place yet contained feeling of the soundtrack. When Rammstein’s track stops, we’re giving “Hollywood Sunset“, one hell of a moody instrumental by Barry Adamson, one that just brings smoking cigarettes and writing to my mind, giving the listener a very calm and almost dream-like mood before you know what?, ANOTHER Rammstein song hits. This time, the cult-like “Heirate Mich” plays, which at the time sounded like nothing I had ever heard before, but nowadays reminds me of the opening and closing of Lars Von Trier’s NYMPHOMANIAC, another film that features music by the German band.

When that track stops very suddenly, we’re given a one minute long, yet very effective Badalamenti track, “Police,” followed by the Trent Reznor-composed “Driver Down,” a guitar heavy almost closer to the film and the soundtrack. In the film, “Driver Down” sees the switch back from Pete to Fred, as cops chase him, with the track setting up such an intense and chaotic mood, right before the film and album’s closer, a reprise of Bowie’s “I’m Deranged” begins, quietly, and beautifully.

It’s a soundtrack that I hold very close to my heart, one that I find myself revisiting a good amount. Solid as a rock, and full of some of the most moody, beautiful, abrasive and emotional tracks I’ve ever heard. If you haven’t seen the film, do yourselves a favor and watch it, and if you’re in the mood for one hell of a soundtrack, pick this one up.

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