CD Review: David Lynch, Crazy Clown Time

Eraser Head, Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart — David Lynch hallmarks all. But Lynch and his unorthodoxy have found new form in the Nov. 13 release of Crazy Clown Time (CCT), the filmmaker’s first solo foray into the music scene. Though the mediums have changed in this strange take on electro-pop, the unmistakable crooked Lynchian character remains.

This isn’t the first time Lynch has leant his talents to music making, having teamed up with his longtime favourite collaborator, film and television composer Angelo Badalamenti (Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, Lost Highway) on the Twin Peaks soundtracks of the early ’90s.

This new release retains something of the slow marauding tempos that dominate the backgrounds of the Lynch/Badalamenti film projects we’ve come to be unsettled by and love, and each song stands as its own short story. The track “Football Game” falls into this slow-moving, atmospheric category.

In the track “So Glad,” the protagonist pitilessly recounts, “so glad you’re gone . . . ball ’n chain gone,” and the many reasons he’s thankful to have been separated from his partner, all to the deep tolls of a church bell. This sullen atmosphere leaks into the following song, “Noah’s Ark,” beginning with a strong pulsating baseline and swirling synth, building into rainstorm sound effects while Lynch whispers and warns “of the sound of love.”

Crazy Clown Time is full of tracks with Lynch’s distortion-heavy vocals laid atop generous amounts of synth and slow, though danceable, electronica. The album’s lead-off track, “Pinky’s Dream,” is bound to catch first-time listeners off-guard. It gets off to a quick start, featuring the yelps and haunted, echoic vocals of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ front woman, Karen O, against the constant thud of bass drums, recurring twang and delay.

“Strange and Unproductive Thinking” is an expression of Lynch’s real life preoccupation with transcendental meditation, musing in monotone over different paradoxes of mundane life for over six minutes, including over a minute spent noting the niceties of modern dental hygiene. It’s worth a listen — maybe only one — as it necessarily increases the amount of boredom in the universe and is a departure from the otherwise pleasant weirdness of the rest of the album.

The title track, “Crazy Clown Time,” stands out as its own kind of maniacal circus-narrative, with a nasalized Lynch taking on the likeness of a child, elating over the events of a backyard party with friends. Except, rather than bobbing for apples, the characters are losing clothes, they’re chugging and getting dowsed in beer, they’re lighting their hair on fire, spitting and screaming, and in between the note-bending guitar and the boyish stirrings, a grown woman’s carnal groans. “It was really fun / It was real fun,” concludes the happy boy.

Lynch’s sparing use of vocals and surprising co-opting of an electro-pop sound as a narrative device make for an unusual listening experience, one I’d wish upon any Lynch cinephile. Being a fan myself, I am mindful of how easily it would be to uncritically lavish CCT with undue amounts of praise. But his penchant for surrealist storytelling, his selective word choice and placement seem as effective and disconcerting in music as they are in film.

3 1/2 stars out of 5