Album review: ‘Crazy Clown Time’ by David Lynch

Unsurprisingly, weirdness prevails on David Lynch’s solo-record debut.

Sally Hedberg

David Lynch is a man whose reputation precedes him âÄî though that reputation isnâÄôt normal. More than likely, your familiarity with the surrealist filmmaker is one wreathed in complicated, unsettling emotional experience. HeâÄôs a dark dude, and itâÄôs more than evident in the sound scapes of his films. His directorial work on projects like âÄúTwin PeaksâÄù or âÄúEraserheadâÄù drew explicitly from the music to create atmosphere, tension and to develop a disturbing mood.

Well, Lynch has found a new musical muse to chase: himself. Debuting his first-ever solo album, âÄúCrazy Clown Time,âÄù the director/musician has set to prove that his narrative sound-design mastery exceeds the boundaries of a screenplay.

As an artist so keenly intent on the development and inner turmoil of his characters, itâÄôs no surprise that Lynch propels into the album with the creation of a fictional car-chase narrative in âÄúPinkyâÄôs Dream.âÄù Hinging on the anxious vocals of indie super woman Karen O, Lynch sets the musical framework for the rest of the album with Western, twanging guitar lines meshed with modern electronic equipment and battering percussion. As expected, the results are eerie and confusing, but itâÄôs a positive thing. ThereâÄôs enough depth to keep listeners interested and enough of a pop sensibility that itâÄôs not overly unnerving.

Moving onward, this isnâÄôt necessarily the case. LynchâÄôs next track, âÄúGood Day Today,âÄù leads off with an innocuous, but promising synth beat thatâÄôs rendered utterly weird with the introduction of LynchâÄôs nasaly, vocoded voice singing/chanting about fire. Again, are we surprised? No. But itâÄôs not the kind of track that will merit a high play count. ThereâÄôs a slight element of catchiness, but itâÄôs far too robotic and repetitive.

Other tracks manage to transfer LynchâÄôs hazy vision with finesse. âÄúSo GladâÄù is the prime example of the dreamy-with-an-undercurrent-of-grit approach to these sensual, complex compositions. ItâÄôs a soundtrack that hints at danger in any form, but the listeners, without any framework, are left to imagine the context for themselves.

Another testament to LynchâÄôs undoubted strength as a composer is âÄúStoneâÄôs Gone Up,âÄù a track thatâÄôs held together with a simple (but powerful) guitar riff thatâÄôs met with Tom Waits-esque growls and a wistful chorus. Different elements used in such an experimental setting would expect to yield train-wreck results, but they donâÄôt: ItâÄôs vulnerable and beautiful.

As much as he can be applauded for pushing boundaries in the realm of production, sometimes LynchâÄôs aims are a bit overambitious for even him. The 14-track record runs about four songs too long and the eccentric musical fillers (e.g. a seven-minute robotic rant/epic poem?) make it difficult to find cohesion in the album. But it could be deliberate. Much like his movies, a commitment to âÄúCrazy Clown TimeâÄù is an emotional undertaking. Everything is so deeply entwined that itâÄôs necessary to endure the material thatâÄôs most unsettling in order to make sense of it at all. At its worst, this album is just another side project of someone famous. At its best (and most accurate), itâÄôs a spellbinding window into one of the most baffling and creative minds to this day.