Real Life Rock Top 10

David Thomas channels the ghosts of Edward Hopper, Orson Welles, and his own past

Nighthawks Frank Black and Syd Straw enojy some Hopper-esque coffee
Danny Fisher
Nighthawks Frank Black and Syd Straw enojy some Hopper-esque coffee

The difference between Lynch's American towns and the decaying towns on and off Thomas's Lost Highway--the phrase repeated so often it finally fell somewhere between a prayer and a brand name--was that in the darkest, most dead-end actions Thomas orchestrated in Los Angeles, there was always the sense that they were a setup, that all together they made a story which, when you heard the punch line, you would understand as a joke. When on the last night the 49-year-old Thomas gave his all to Rocket from the Tombs' adolescent lament "Final Solution," it didn't end up so far from Dion and the Belmonts' "Teenager in Love." But the punch line never came, unless it was the last line of "Nightdriving," somewhere in Mirror Man, I think, as if Thomas was floating across all the chanting voices, incantations, and reverb guitar of the night before and the night to come: "See ya around, sucker!"--the second syllable of the third word cracking like a whip, like a grin as big as the room.

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