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100 Albums: "Lost Highway"

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Various
Title: Lost Highway
Released: 1997
Genre: industrial death-jazz

Before Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross started winning Oscars for their movie scores, Reznor cut his teeth producing soundtracks for what passed for "artsy" mainstream films in the 90's. The most successful of these was Lost Highway, the soundtrack to the batshit crazy David Lynch film of the same name, in which Bill Pullman is stalked, convicted of murder, transforms into Balthazar Getty... something with Robert Blake... Giovanni Ribisi's in it... look, it stops making any sense at all after about forty-five minutes. Watch it while on drugs, I guess.

The album is anchored by the Nine Inch Nails song The Perfect Drug which is one of my favorites of theirs (and one of Reznor's least-favorite, oddly enough). The disc is bookended by David Bowie singing different renditions of a song called I'm Deranged. Marylyn Manson contributes a couple of songs, as do Rammstein. Smashing Pumpkins' electronicky Eye was a single--and its success . There's a bizarre version of Lou Reed's This Magic Moment that's got a stripped-down rockabilly feel but with these fuzzy guitars hovering under the arrangement. It's fascinatingly odd and actually pretty good. Then there are a ton of instrumental dark jazz tracks from frequent Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalamenti, which give the entire album a weird groovy vibe, and gives the album some of its more fun titles, like Dub Driving or Red Bats With Teeth. Barry Adamson contributes a few low-key jazzy tracks as well. And there's the occasional line from the movie taken completely out of context.

It's a trip to listen to, but remarkably it has its own cohesive sonic identity despite being attached to a film and also a vessel for radio-friendly rock singles. Part of what makes it work is that while it has a lot of weird parts, they're mostly fairly short. You're never living in one mode for very long. So while Marylyn Manson singing I Put A Spell On You comes out of freaking nowhere, three minutes later you're on the next thing. So you never really get your footing, and after just over an hour, it's over and you've been bombarded by a lot, but you kinda dug it.

Further Listening: Reznor also produced the soundtrack to Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers. It's not quite as listenable, but it was also a better movie, so...