Watchingcattle takes a break from the movies to check out Crazy Clown Time, the debut album from “the worlds most renowned lunatic maverick film maker” David Lynch.
Overachievers. You don’t really ever see them outside of school. Perhaps they all peak too soon. One minute they’re solving complex equations, making a brilliant spice rack, running cross country like a fucking deer, riding the nice ones in your class and having perfect teeth and then, by the time they’re thirty, they’re tied to a wife the size of a horse with a mortgage the size of a buffalo, have a prostate that is ticking down to the final assault on their pride and have the kind of yellow bag of chips smile that makes Shane McGowan look like a commercial for dental floss. Perhaps they account for all of those disappearances you read about. Perhaps they continue to overachieve thus evolve into a new being which does not require a physical form and just wanders a dimension outside of the one we mere mortals exist in. There they are, body-less globs, watching us and our primitive ways…judging us. They’re still proud and a little bit smug and they probably get to keep their perfect fucking teeth too.
The worst type of overachiever is the one who’s nice. I fucking hate them. I only knew two when I was at school. One went on to win the Rose of Tralee and the other was a lad who had a carpenter for a dad. I assume he was conceived atop a running band saw and his first words were probably “pine finish with a mahogany veneer”. Whatever his Ma did I don’t know, but he started school speaking fluent German. So what does the fucker do in school? He studies German and Woodwork. Instantly he has two guaranteed As and so can sit on his hole knowing that he doesn’t have to fucking try in either class. He got 7 or 8 As in the end. Last I heard he packed in college, became a master Carpenter and was earning fucking millions. Last time I saw him was somewhere around the time I finished transition year. He of course didn’t have a drug problem, a dodgy brain or have to fulfil hours of community service for shoplifting porno mags so he didn’t need to take the year to wean himself off the booze and speed and theft and porn and hookers (ahh good times)… he just ploughed ahead into the Leaving Cert. He had one of those genuinely nice and mad sexy girls, that wouldn’t be caught dead with you, wrapped around him. Fucker. But the worst thing about him was that he was genuinely nice. He was smart and witty and he really did have perfect fucking teeth. Prick.
David Lynch does not have perfect teeth. But he is (with the exception of Werner Herzog perhaps) the worlds most renowned lunatic maverick film maker. He also tries to convince the world to try Transcendental Meditation to achieve bliss and from what I can tell runs an organisation which tries to use the teachings of T.M to help folks less well off deal with post-traumatic stress. Though I could be wrong about that – maybe it’s a shady cult, it’s hard to tell. Either way he’s an ex-boy scout. His manners are probably impeccable and he seems to always have a smoke handy. He’d probably even light the fucking thing for you and say have a nice day. Prick.
So what does the world’s foremost surreal, Oscar-nominated and generally most all-round celebrated American filmmaker of the last 30 years do when he’s not making bonkers movies, television shows and internet series? Well either he’s making a coffee table book or he’s running a fucking coffee company for you to drink his coffee while you flip through the coffee table book. Or he’s trying to buy a German mountain or he’s ranting about the iPhone. Oh and he made an album as well. Probably just so that if you went to school with him he can turn up in Xtravision one night in a car that runs on smiles and produces a lovely smell of fresh bread from its exhaust and stand beside you while you’re in a pit of crushing loneliness carefully scanning the titles in the erotic thriller section and ask “Hey! What have you been up to?” Yeah I’ll bet he really means it too, I bet he’s mad polite. Then he’ll suggest watching Illicit Dreams 3 like it’s no big thing, he’s just being helpful. Bastard.
So is his album any good ?
Let’s face it – usually when someone from Hollywood makes a record it’s total shit. 30 Seconds to Mars anyone?….. No. Thought not. So when you hear that David Lynch is releasing an album you can expect the worst. But then this is David Lynch, he’s a genius right? So it should be brilliant. Well for my money it’s a case of it being very good, occasionally brilliant, occasionally dire and always dark.
Though this may be David Lynch’s first album proper, it’s not as if you don’t know what to expect. No, he’s not going to do gangsta rap or pop ditties about love. Lynch is responsible for probably the most individual, affecting, strange, wild, surreal and haunting films of the last 30 odd years. That’s before mentioning that he redefined television for the better to boot. And he has also been involved with music from his first film in one way or another, writing lyrics for Julee Cruise and composing music for some of his films.
The song In Heaven which appears in his debut film Eraserhead has a slight simple and minimalist enigmatic charm to it and is kind of a blueprint for what David Lynch is about as a musician. From this album you get the feeling that perhaps some of the wonderful Angelo Badalamenti scores which appear in most of Lynch’s finest works have been produced by a more evenly distributed collaborative effort between the two. Anyone who has heard the score for Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and specifically the song Pink Room (it plays over the scene in One Eyed Jacks) will be familiar with most of the minimal sounds and song structures that Lynch uses throughout this album.
Can Lynch sing? Well, he certainly does sing, and whisper, and read essays to us through effects pedals. He sounds like a man in his late sixties who smokes quite a bit and it has to be said that his voice is so odd that even when it’s not being processed by effects it still sounds jarring and slightly alien, but that’s not especially surprising either his speaking voice has always sounded to me like it was being processed through some kind of biological pitch shifter in his throat so as to make his every word sound even more mysterious.
So yes, this is a dark and mysterious listen. The chaotic opener Pinkys Dream in which Karen O of the Yeay Yeah Yeahs sounds both terrified and and turned on at the same time while an industrial sounding rhythm pumps away and guitar chords crash through a tremolo is excellent. It sets the the tone for what’s to follow and has all the hallmarks of Lynchland; mystery, frenzy, a hint of sex and violence and an odd beauty. Form here Lynch takes a detour into a sort of mid-nineties minimal electro disco with Star Scream from transformers on vocals begging for angels and good days. Then it’s into the pink room, where most of the album seems to be set (for want of a better term), for tales of cheating wives, lost loves and an undercurrent of menace and longing. Star Scream appears again to read an essay about the achievement of bliss and the importance of dental hygiene and if this is all sounding like complete insanity then in fairness, c’mon, this is David-fucking-Lynch, what were you expecting? The album is dense, minimal and fraught with melancholy. Lynch’s voice does grate, but the simplicity and menace of the lyrics and the chord structures mean that when he gets his delivery right he does suck you in and some moments could have crept out from some of his most malevolent movies. At 14 tracks and over an hour in length it’s probably slightly too long and I found the constant tension and discomfort tiring. Frankly my interest was waning by the time the title track’s sixth minute rolled around. This said, however, when it works it really does work.
I suppose the most surprising thing about this album is that it isn’t more surprising. Anyone familiar with Lynch will recognise much of what is here. What isn’t here is anything of the delicate beauty of the work that Lynch and Badalamenti did with Julee Cruise on some of Fire Walk With Me or on Industrial Symphony number 1. So while Lynch may have some influence on Badalamenti, it is definitely the latter who pulls the strings and creates the light touches and nuances that make the scores the masterpieces that they are.
Without Badalamenti, Lynch is well able to stand on his own two feet. He is the ideas man. and there is plenty here to admire. It’s difficult and prickly and reminiscent of all the bands who have been influenced by either Lynch’s films or as his 80’s contemporaries would share the same list of influences as him. You will hear shades of Swans, Sonic Youth, Pixies, Birthday Party and Nick Cave in here. Even Moby gets a look in, but it does feel, as with all of Lynches work, that it is the work of either a completely original loon or a completely original genius (delete as appropriate). If you’re a fan of his films you might like a lot here, if you’re not…don’t bother basically. Lynch probably will make a great solo album sometime, after all he is David Lynch and that’s a lot more than Jared Leto can ever say, but Crazy Clown Time probably isn’t it.
In short stick this on, drop acid and invite the prettiest girl in school around so you can slow dance and whisper violent threats in her ear.
Crazy Clown Time is out this Friday, 4th November, on Sunday Best.