DAVID LYNCH – Crazy Clown Time ( Play It Again Sam )

David Lynch

Caution was taken in approaching this item as I have unerring faith in this man. What he has injected into the cultural climate of the last 30 years is surrealistic hope against a barrage of stultifying mediocrity. No stranger to the audio process, David Lynch has been a lyricist for Julee Cruise, frequent contributor to the soundtracks of his own movies and has his name on several odds and ends projects as an unorthodox guitarist. The central roll that music plays in his creations shows meticulous instinct so it makes perfect sense that, during his directorial sabbatical, he should finally find time to release his first proper solo album. Slothful journalism based on the spearhead single “Good Day Today” suggested that it was going to be an electro-pop based excursion. This is, of course, complete nonsense. The full spectrum of Lynch’s discordant surrealism couldn’t possibly be realised through such a pinhole. Whatever else was thrown into the cauldron, this was always going to be a tense fusion of bizarre pop, eerie leftfield experiments and shimmers of THAT slow twangy guitar…

…and CRAZY CLOWN TIME does indeed twang open with PINKY’S DREAM, immediately “Lynchian” in it’s delivery, ( think Audrey Horn in a pencil skirt dancing by herself on red and white diner tiles ), with a wonderful lead vocal from Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s. This is the sort of 60’s flavoured pop that didn’t actually exist during the real 60s but sits firm in David Lynch’s asphyxiating cinematic version of it. It wouldn’t be out of place on Lykke Li’s last album. GOOD DAY TODAY, the single, comes in the guise of brazen pop with a strobing guitar wash, repetitive programmed drums and some heavily vocoded nasal drawl. After a fine start, SO GLAD is whiney and throwaway but things are quickly back on track with NOAH’S ARK, a minimal metronomic passage with whispered vocals and understated layers of sound rising and retreating through the mix. FOOTBALL GAME is another unsettling, reverberating twanger, This time the vocals are delivered in a sort of trailer park slur… an effect Mr. Lynch no doubt achieved by filling his cheeks with cheap Styrofoam breakfast cereal… at least that’s what his attention to detail suggests. I KNOW has an underlay of organ against a slack drum beat with very economic fragments of guitar and vocals which come across as improvised. STRANGE AND UNPRODUCTIVE THINKING is a bizarre vocoded transcendental rant, which begins with “ Bearing all the aforementioned dialogues we discover the possibilities of the curve towards progressive behaviour and the ultimate realisation of the goal of evolution…” and continues on for some time before wrapping up with some strange theories on dental hygiene and a refrain of “ Strange and unproductive thinking ”. Given Lynch’s involvement with transcendental meditation, it’s hard to know whether he’s taking the piss or generously sharing some clandestine knowledge with us. THE NIGHT BELL WITH LIGHTNING is very much a slow burning incidental backdrop with more of that sparse signature guitar. Again, it stirs clear memories of so many different classic and obscure on-screen “Lynchian” snapshots – some psychoanalytical moment involving log ladies and coffee. STONE’S GONE UP is another helping of whispered vocals over a drive time drumbeat which almost threatens to breach normality except for a ‘noir’ undercurrent. CRAZY CLOWN TIME, the disturbing title track features a high pitched whine, murmurs of backward voices and lyrics that suggest sedation and hysterical entrapment – the sort of social gatherings featured in many of David Lynch’s movies where guests are present under duress, often drugged up or held at gunpoint. As for the crazy clown… I’d rather not speculate.  At this point it’s worth noting that there’s a highly unsettling undercurrent in most of the lyrical matter. It’s the same landscape that all the characters of Lynch’s oeuvre have inhabited – A lost, bruised and dismantled America where sugary innocence always falls foul of prevailing and wilful evil. THESE ARE MY FRIENDS recounts the frail scramble for the crumbs of life by an involuntary player in the unforgiving David Lynch narrative – “ These are my friends, the ones I see each day, I’ve got a prescription for our problems, Keep the hounds at bay ”. SPEED ROADSTER is the voice of a vengeful stalker with some unhinged plans. MOVIN’ ON evokes that solitary late night driving shot that has been a repeated motif throughout Lynch’s work. The Final track, SHE RISE UP is bleak, crawling to a vague and hissing electronic cymbal, leaving the album hanging. In a dark and unforgiving coda, the last inhabiting character comes away empty handed… there’s no happy ending here.

It seems fitting that this album sits among alumni on Play It Again Sam Records ( Front 242, Butthole Surfers, Young Gods, Soulwax etc… ). While having little in common sonically with any of those entities ( except maybe a very heavily sedated Buttholes in places ), the sympathetic and experimental environment shields it from a sewage outfall of what might be classed as throwaway celebrity albums. But this was never going to go badly awry or be utterly uninteresting… like David Lynch’s celluloid output, repeated consumption yields new layers and far from being wilfully obscure gibberish, it’s mostly a cohesive album. There are a couple of tracks that wouldn’t lopside it by their absence but that’s more or less the sole criticism. This is, after all, the work of a renaissance man and if Da Vinci can hop from painting to science to inventing helicopters, then it is perfectly normal for David Lynch to make movies, paint and release albums. I’m guessing this whole exercise is also going to save a whole lot in licensing fees whenever he dusts down the director’s chair. – BOZ


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