Despite an impressive back catalogue in which he has composed original music and collaborated on various projects such as the mighty 2010 effort Dark Night of the Soul with the late great Mark Linkous and Danger Mouse, the recently released Crazy Clown Time is by and large a solo effort from filmmaker David Lynch. And you would not be surprised to know, it’s pretty darn bizarre. As with his films, David Lynch’s music is twisted, sinister, dark and saturated with disturbing images and peculiar flashes of a fantastic mind unhinged.
Having said this, opening track Pinky’s Dream is sung by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and is the most impressive song on the album, describing a disturbed character’s last thoughts and moments as his car speeds down a highway. It’s obviously dark, mysterious with a menacing guitar, and Karen O’s whispers, murmurs and shrieks unsettle the listener from the outset. Lead single Good Day Today sees Lynch take control, and delivers a repetitive techno hook with auto-tuned lyrics interspersed with machinegun fire. Despite that, and the sinister elements within: ‘So tired of fearing, so tired of dark’, it’s positively chirpy, all things considered, and could feature in a club near you. The formulaic nature of the single would initially have Lynchonians confused. Yet beyond this song lies a more familiar menacing mood, which will have DJs cowering under their decks. Noah’s Ark hears Lynch hissing his way through a repetitive and disturbing song, while the wacky Strange and Unproductive Thinking is a seven and a half minute auto-tune rant which makes for rather uncomfortable listening, as he covers a range of subjects including the social implications of oral hygiene.
The album, quite unsurprisingly, is extremely filmic, as heard on instrumental The Night Bell With Lightning, and adds a certain appeal to a broadly uncomfortable album to endure. Yet the surreptitious use of electronica and murky backcountry blues combined with rasping and disturbing vocals is awkwardly engaging. The title track is like rubbernecking a car-crash, as one can’t help but listen intently, as Lynch sings falsetto child-like unhinged words’ ‘Daddy poured beer all over Sally’ with intimidating and slow country music interjected with orgasmic moans and groans. Don’t play this one with the grand-parents in the room: ‘Was that a…’ ‘ No I don’t think so’.
Lynch’s crossing over new and old sounds on Crazy Clown Time is a notable effort of experimentation. His own transition as a filmmaker from film to digital has been well documented as seen in this interview with Reverse Shot, and in many ways the album is a testament to this journey. It provides a suitable soundtrack to the life and mindset of David Lynch. And could indeed provide a suitable soundtrack to any of his films. Crazy Clown Time however still remains somewhat a mystery after four very draining listens. The fans will enjoy it, even if they don’t quite get it, everyone else less so. As someone in-between appreciator and ignorant of Lynch’s work, his ability to exploit sound to create an atmosphere, however sinister, and however bizarre is a credible achievement in both his films and now in his music. Yet as a stand-alone album, Crazy Clown Time is very difficult to enjoy.
Suffice to say, this isn’t one for a Spotify playlist party, but a vigorous David Lynch film night, may help to unfathom the enigma further.
Crazy Clown Time is out now on Play It Again Sam