David Lynch - Crazy Clown Time

by Rich Morris Rating:8 Release Date:2011-11-07

If you're a fan of Lynch's cinema work, or his near-mythologically weird TV show Twin Peaks, or maybe just his deathlessly great grey quiff, you might approach the man's music with some expectations. Maybe you're expecting smoky, sexually ambiguous lounge jazz, all the better to mask the violence of a man who can't control his appetites. Or maybe some perky, sickly 50s pop, sugar-coating the rotten apples in suburban America's pie. How about effortlessly cool rock 'n' roll and a spot of surf guitar? A vintage rebel stance to go with that iconic hairstyle? You might have these expectations, but since when has Lynch been a man to meet, or even show awareness of expectations?

 

So how about an album of moody, paranoid trip hop with occasional gushes of broken-hearted synth-pop. Where you expecting that? And are you surprised that Crazy Clown Time, Lynch's first official non-soundtrack, solo album, is one of the finest albums of the year? To be fair, we do get some rock 'n' roll grit and rumbling surf guitar, primarily on opening song 'Pinky's Dream', a collaboration with Karen O. With its trembling but rootless sense of anxiety, it sounds very like something inspired by a Lynch movie, perhaps written by Siouxsie Sioux. It's fine but it's not the best thing here and something of an anomaly.

 

More indicative of the album as a whole are 'So Glad', 'Noah's Ark' and the closing 'She Rise Up' all of which have a dull factory hum and industrial hiss about them. It's fun throughout this album to try and match each song with a Lynch film and with these three we're talking pure Eraserhead, Lynch's first, perhaps darkest work. The music here is so empty and numb, the whispered, treated vocals so sinister, that one feels this could be the music playing in protagonist Henry Spencer's (eraser)head. As absorbing as this game may be, however, it does a disservice to an album which stands fully on its own two feet, regardless of what its maker has achieved elsewhere.

 

How could you fail to love a record which combines the chilliest, darkest moments by Massive Attack and Portishead with a bittersweet synth-pop anthem worthy of New Order, The Postal Service or Pet Shop Boys? The song in question, 'Good Day Today', is a thing of beguiling fragility fixed to a danceable beat, Dada-spliced with machine gun rat-a-tat blasts. Autotuned to fuck Lynch's voice may be, but when he sings "Send me an angel/Save me" it feels genuine and raw, like it's coming from a real man rather than a celebrated auteur with famous mates on speed-dial.

 

Now on his fourth marriage, Lynch is doubtless a man with plenty of experience of pain, betrayal and jealousy, of dark nights of the soul. After all, only a man who understands dysfunction inside and out could create such a convincing monster as Blue Velvet's Frank Booth. Unsurprisingly, Crazy Clown Time throws up plenty of dark themes. On 'Speed Roadster', Lynch is stalking an ex-lover, recalling a time he "took her down by the river" when some unexplained indiscretion occured. When he leers "I walk the street/ Sometimes I see some girls I'd like to meet," it's a perfectly judged goose-bump raising moment. The same applies to the bluesy 'Football Game', on which Lynch circles a scene of sexual betrayal without ever giving too much away. Put it this way, after hearing this album, you'd think twice about accepting a date with this man.

 

But there's also humour and playfulness. The album's centrepiece, 'Strange and Unproductive Thinking', is a near-eight minute cosmic blues jam on which a heavily vocodered Lynch rambles free-form about existentialism, transcendental meditation and dental hygiene. It's a head-fuck, no doubt, but it's also a likeable, strangely captivating work.

 

If there's one criticism to be made of Crazy Clown Time, it's that it's a little one-pace. The music is often slow and menacing. You should know what you're getting with this album - it's no barrel of laughs. You won't be playing it at parties, unless all your friends are dolls and you don't like the way they talk about you behind your back. For the rest of us, this is the perfect record for some alone time with added creepy thrills.

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