The Lost Highway soundtrack’s kitchen-sink assemblage of mid-1990s alternative acts such as Nine Inch Nails and Smashing Pumpkins and glam giants like David Bowie and Lou Reed seems like a brazen attempt to open additional revenue streams for David Lynch’s uncommercial twenty-first-century noir nightmare. However, closer attention to how these songs are used in the film, particularly three cover songs, reveals a more intricate strategy. This article explores how scholarship regarding cover songs echoes and extends scholarship on postmodern identity in Lost Highway and on the compilation soundtrack itself. Each cover appears at a crucial moment in the narrative, and each exemplifies what Michael Rings calls a “generic reset,” a transformative recording that shifts genre and style to create a new song complete with the ability to alter the meaning of the song and, in the case of Lost Highway, the film as well. Lost Highway’s covers twist Kassabian’s concept of affiliating identifications, ensnaring the audience in a web of affiliating misidentifications, a sonic déjà vu in which the comfort of recognition collapses into disorientation, not pleasure. Such a move in a film about doppelgängers and alter egos borne out of a white male sexual panic cannot be mere coincidence. By subverting audience identification with the soundtrack, Lost Highway broadens noir conventions musically and opens new lanes to understanding the compilation soundtrack as a vehicle for subverting and resisting control and pleasure, chansons fatales whose identities are as fluid and beyond the audience’s control as the femme fatale is from the male noir protagonist.

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