Music from Route 666
If you're looking for a couple of first-rate creeps to entertain you, you couldn't do much better than David Lynch and Trent Reznor. Now, when I call those guys creeps I don't mean to imply that they aren't also swell fellas- it's just that their oeuvres tend toward the, well, creepy. Different kinds of creepy, though. Invite them both to a party, and Lynch might be the mild-mannered guy who stands by himself near the chips 'n dip, fingering what you assume is a Pringle until you get close enough to recognize it as a severed ear; Reznor would be the one who barges in, knocks over the coffee table and screams at the top of his lungs, "I want to fuck you like an animal!"
Neither of them knows when to stop. They both obliterate the fine line between genius and idiocy, and they've been responsible for some thoroughly and wonderfully creepy soundtracks. Lynch gave us Blue Velvet, in which Bobby Vinton and Roy Orbison sounded like agents of Satan; the Soundtrack From Twin Peaks, the doomiest new age recording ever made; and Wild at Heart, which set out to explore the seedy, sinister underbelly of rockabilly and in the process made the not-very-sinister Chris Isaak a star. Reznor's resume is more limited, but he made his one foray into the field count: Natural Born Killers is a demented soundscape as jarring, beautiful and revolutionary as the movie would like to be.
Now the two avatars of unease have joined forces for Lost Highway, a movie directed by Lynch with a soundtrack supervised by Reznor. As you might guess, it's a lot more urgent and purposefully annoying than Lynch's usual soundtracks. The proudly abrasive David Bowie provides what amounts to a theme song ("I'm Deranged"); Reznor's Nine Inch Nails add new tunes that are occasionally brutal and always unsettling; Smashing Pumpkins trot out that eerie grandiosity they've just about patented-and on the downside, Trent's pals in Marilyn Manson show that it's not a good idea to try to out-creep Screamin' Jay Hawkins's version of "I Put a Spell On You," unless you want to look silly.
In this company, even the placid sound of Antonio Carlos Jobim's classic "Insensatez" sounds like it's concealing some dirty little secrets. All of it, in fact, works together well; the mixture of songs, score and snippets of dialogue is surprisingly unified, with many of the songs featuring traditional lead instruments (guitar, piano, even voice) all but buried beneath a rumbling, bass-heavy pulse. The two guys who wrote the instrumental score fit right in: Barry Adamson reshuffles the flotsam and jetsam of film noir music and '60s pop in a way that always plays up the sinister, while Lynch regular Angelo Badalamenti whips up his characteristic atmosphere of dread. (How do you say "creepy" in Italian?)
To be honest, though, they both sound like amateurs next to the creepiest composer in movie history. I bring this up because lately I've been listening to the highfalutin' but satisfying Bernard Herrmann: The Film Scores, Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic's sumptuous reading of suites from Vertigo, Torn Curtain, Taxi Driver and the like. This is the kind of music that could even give Lynch and Reznor the willies.
Back to the Lost Highway soundtrack page.