David Lynch. Look up the words ‘acquired taste’ in the dictionary and, more than likely, you will see a picture of this man staring back at you. There are very few artists that have split opinions and reactions so wildly in the latter part of the late 20th century and the early part of the 21st so much as David Lynch. Primarily known as a film maker, he has directed such astounding and unique films over a period of forty years. Films such as Blue Velvet, Wild At Heart, Lost Highway, Eraserhead and Mulholland Drive that challenge and confound in equal measure.
What makes Lynch such a unique being and artist? Firstly, he has always made art, whether it be on canvas or celluloid, on his own terms and never those of anyone else. The only time he tried to go ‘commercial’, with Dune in 1984, proved to be one of the biggest financial and artistic mistakes of his career. Lynch’s films are very much the cinematic equivalent of impressionist painting. One can see how things eventually connect and go together. Or not. His work is always highly ambiguous and open to interpretation. This approach can thrill and infuriate in equal measure.
One of his greatest strengths as a director is in his use of sound and music. Often working with fantastic composer Angelo Badalamenti, Lynch has a truly unique style and approach with sound in his films. Be it the industrial nightmare from hell soundscape from Eraserhead or his use of fifties and sixties music in Blue Velvet, where he twists the meanings and intent of the songs inside out by using them over highly confronting and disturbing images, Lynch possesses an uncanny ability to use sound and music to truly get under the skin of the viewer.
Crazy Clown Time is Lynch’s first official foray into the area of music though he has dabbled before. He worked a lot on the music of the television show he created, Twin Peaks, as well as producing Julee Cruise’s debut album, Floating Into The Night.
Crazy Clown Time sees Lynch front and centre exploring the same sense of sonic landscape and texture that he has used so effectively in his films. Opening with the woozy and disorienting “Pinky’s Dream”, featuring Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on vocals, Crazy Clown Time is like a Lynch movie without the movie. “Pinky’s Dream” is a great way to start the album and one of the more accessible track for those not familiar with Lynch’s universe.
Having not made a feature film since 2006’s utterly bizarre and abstract Inland Empire, the past five years has seen Lynch pursue many other artistic endeavours. Sonically, Crazy Clown Time is a really interesting mix between the old and the new. On one hand, that fifties sound and style that Lynch loves so much, involving hollow bodied guitars and lots of reverb, collides head on with drum machines and synthesisers. The result, while at times highly interesting and compelling can, at others, be a bit repetitive and monotonous.
“Good Day Today” sounds like it could have stepped straight out of Twin Peaks. Lynch, with a heavily treated and effects-drenched vocal, ostensibly sings the words of the title like a mantra. However, instead of being positive, there is something unsettling and disturbing to it, like an undercurrent. In this way, Lynch is far more effective than any horror movie in being able to something primal and elemental in relation to fear and what people find unnerving and scary.
The music on Crazy Clown Time doesn’t always work. “Strange And Unproductive Thinking” sounds like the ramblings of a homeless guy up the back of the train carriage, filtered through Auto Tune. At six minutes plus, it outstays its welcome quickly.There are some great tracks featured here, such as the haunting “Football Game”, “These Are My Friends” and the title track. There are others, such as “I Know” and “Stone’s Gone Up” that sound like sketches and fragments not fully fleshed out.
Lynch uses his voice in interesting ways. On tracks like the aforementioned “Good Day Today”, it is used in an effective manner. At other times, it is borderline unlistenable which, knowing Lynch, might be the whole point entirely.
Overall, this is an interesting and enjoyable listen, particularly for Lynch fans. Unfortunately, in regards to Lynch, it ends up sounding quite conventional and nowhere near as envelope pushing and challenging as it could have been.
– Neil Evans