David Lynch is a mysterious man. In the last 30 years, he’s contributed more to popular culture than most people may realize. From “Blue Velvet” to “Twin Peaks,” his works are part of the pantheon of American cinema and television. Many strange and wonderful things have come out of that silver-topped and perfectly coiffed head of his.
His movies are a blend of disturbing surrealism and images of Americana, a combination which always enthralls and sometimes frightens. Anyone who has experienced a Lynch production can expect a certain eerie and curious quality to everything he touches.
That’s why it comes as no surprise that David Lynch’s new solo album (perfectly titled “Crazy Clown Time”; of course nightmarish, psychopathic clowns would come up) is just as strange as you might expect and hope for from the master.
And what better way to start than with a visit by Ms. Karen O. herself? The Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer lends herself perfectly to the dark and moody tone of the first track, “Pinky’s Dream.” Karen O. and David Lynch seem like the perfect eccentric duo. Her voice vibrates with the echoing bass lines, and her occasional moans and gasps punctuate the track at the perfect moment. Her breathy cries of “Pinky, watch the road” create a sense of urgency and tension. Film noir images of a manic drug addict speeding down a pitch-black highway instantly come to mind. It makes you think that Karen O. would have been a great muse for Lynch in his heyday of filmmaking.
“Good Day Today” is a surprisingly pleasant and danceable track, overlaid with the robotic echoes of some automaton (more likely Lynch singing through some sort of auto-tune, but with Lynch you tend to let your imagination wander, as nothing is never as it seems in his world). Don’t get what I mean when I saw the track is “surprisingly” pleasant? Go watch “Eraserhead” and then you’ll understand the surprise. You don’t expect a lot of cheer or upbeat energy to come out of him.
But the album tends to roll on in the same sluggish, brooding way. Whether Lynch is whispering or speaking through some strange robotic vocoder, the beat remains the same throughout much of the album. Repetitive in its dubstep-like cadence, the drumbeat stomps on unfailingly from song to song. The twanging guitar and bass adds a bluesy weirdness to the album that is reminiscent of the “Twin Peaks” theme music.
If you’ve ever heard David Lynch speak, you’ll know that he has a twangy Montana accent that makes him seem like a wholesome, down-home Midwestern boy; musically this translates into a slow, hypnotic, nasal drawl throughout the album. It adds to the gritty, unpolished feel of the grungier tracks. Lynch makes no attempt in masking his voice to make it more listenable.
Lynch transports you to a lonely and dangerous place with his songs: to a roadhouse bar in the middle of nowhere, or the trunk of a 1956 Cadillac that’s speeding down an empty highway, going who knows where. The songs would make for the perfect soundtrack for his next film, if it were a whacked-out hyper-surrealist Western drama.
Much like his films, avant-garde surrealist elements always manage to come to the forefront in every song, whether he’s rambling on about subconscious and super-conscious minds, cosmic energy, or transcendentalism. As you go deeper into the album, you start to feel like you’re sinking, and being sucked into this Lynchian drama with dancing midgets, demon possessions and amputated ears. (If any of these references are confusing, get yourself to Netflix right away and at least watch “Twin Peaks.” You need to know who killed Laura Palmer!) It’s hard not to compare his music to his cinematic exploits when his stylistic fingerprint is so obvious on every track.
Lynch is obviously a director first, a lover of good coffee and pie second, and a musician third. That’s not to say “Crazy Clown Time” is just the indulgent musings of a bored artist (I’m looking at you, William Shatner). Switching from minimalist electro-pop to sparsely constructed bluesy drawls, Lynch has found a way to translate his visual weirdness to music.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5