Release Date: Jul 16, 2013
Record label: Sunday Best
Genre(s): Jazz, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Soundtracks, Stage & Screen
If David Lynch has proven anything over the course of his long career in the arts, it’s that you shouldn’t dare attempt to pin him down. You want a follow-up to his 2006 epic Inland Empire? You have to instead check out his special coffee blend, his guest appearances on The Cleveland Show and Louie, or watch him direct a live-streamed concert by Duran Duran. This extends even further to his musical efforts.
It would be glib to tag David Lynch as some sort of paradigmatic modern Renaissance man; after all, Da Vinci never actually got around to finishing most of what he started. But Lynch is nearly as prolific. The abidingly abstruse artiste, not content just to monumentally “devolutionize” the art of filmmaking, also paints like Odilon Redon; sculpts like, well, David Lynch; and even introduced a necessary hallucinatory element into Paris’ staid nightlife scene in 2011 with his mind-bending Silencio nightclub.
As befits the auteur who created Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive, this second solo album by David Lynch is a charming tour through the swinging hits of the 1970s. Only joking, it's actually a little dark. A fusion of blues and early rock'n'roll styles with electronic production techniques, you are dragged into an American wilderness where the land is parched, the sky crackles with electricity, and there's a pair of glowing red eyes watching you from a distance.
David Lynch is described by his record label as a ‘multimedia artist’, which is fitting in so far as it’s accurate but doesn’t really do him justice. Those who have had the misfortune not to encounter his work before are advised to do so immediately – a brief tour of his work on film will demonstrate why the world became quite so excited when it heard of his plan to release an album in 2011. Crazy Clown Time, released in November of that year, was generally regarded as a success.
The term ‘Lynchian’ is used nowadays to define anything with surreal elements- noir aspects and elliptical narratives – but David Lynch’s auteur vision extends beyond his filmmaking; Lynch is somewhat of a prolific polymath, establishing his oeuvre as not only an acclaimed director in a hybrid of artistries – from writing, acting, and painting to web design and even furniture and coffee production – but it’s music where Lynch’s twisted sense of Americana is explicitly observed through the same unique lense as his visual work. It’s customary for artists to expand their talents beyond the realms of their central craft, but rarely has anyone been so singularly self-sufficient without being self indulgent –and just like all mediums of his art, The Big Dream speaks for itself, with all Lynchian facets intrinsically present. Recorded over several months at Lynch’s own Asymmetrical studio with production and instrumental contributions from engineer Dean Hurley, The Big Dream sees Lynch returning to primary songwriting and performance duties, writing 11 out of the album’s 12 tracks, including his signature interpretation of Bob Dylan’s folk classic ‘The Ballad of Hollis Brown’.
I don’t think anything David Lynch creates, whether it’s feature films, paintings, or his music, can quite escape the confines of his own imagination. Crazy Clown Time was sure an indication of that, sounding more like a loose translation of a fuller artistic visualization residing within the dark corners of Lynch’s subconscious, than a completely realized musical effort. As if recalling a dream, every note channeled came out lopsided and warped, every word hauntingly vague, and the sentiment of each passing song even more confounding than the last.
David Lynch is my favourite filmmaker. My obsession with Blue Velvet has confused and frightened multiple girlfriends, and I have spent more time interpreting passages from Twin Peaks than any healthy 25-year old should. Furthermore, since I began following his career in earnest, I have discovered that Lynch and I share a similar dedication to seemingly contradictory vices and lifestyle choices such as meditation and caffeine.
If the idea of a great visionary of cinema releasing an album in 2011 smacked of novelty, the fact that David Lynch has got another one together 18 months later suggests genuine commitment to music. And why not? Strictly speaking, ‘Crazy Clown Time’ wasn’t even Lynch’s debut. He recorded an album with John Neff in 2001, under the name BlueBob.
The blues have been a part of David Lynch's art for years: pieces from Angelo Badalamenti's scores, like Fire Walk with Me's "The Pink Room," are dominated by time-tested chord progressions and moody atmospheres, while projects like Blue Bob demonstrated Lynch's formidable guitar skills. All of which is to say that his second album, The Big Dream, should sound familiar to his fans, even as it pushes the blues' boundaries. These songs are as far removed from many other artists' bluesy dabblings as they are from Lynch's solo debut Crazy Clown Time.
As modern renaissance men go, David Lynch has been incredibly prolific, turning his hand to design, animation and writing over the years. He also formed The David Lynch Foundation for Concsiousness-Based Education and Peace and continues in his attempts to raise $7 billion with which to comprehensively fund it. He also has his own brand of coffee beans.
In 1983, David Lynch began writing a weekly syndicated comic called The Angriest Dog in the World. The artwork for each installment was the same: an image of a monstrous rage-filled creature who only looked a little bit like a dog, tied in a yard outside and open window. Dialog bubbles from inside the house would offer a punning exchange or some philosophical point that was twisted into a single goofy joke (this one was typical: “Pete has a police record”/ “What does he have a police record for?”/ “I guess he likes Sting and their music.”) If you were tuned into Lynch’s surreal sense of humor, there was something compelling about this relentless devotion to a single idea.
As a filmmaker, David Lynch is a celebrated, singular visionary who owes more to visual art than to traditional filmic influences. Movies like Eraserhead and Inland Empire feel cinematically unprecedented. Sound is integral to these films, so Lynch's recent focus on music is not surprising. It follows that imagery is equally important to his music, and his menacingly minimal (and bassy) second solo album is like a film without pictures: a sleepy late-night desert road trip of dissonant electric guitar riffs, bluesy warbling and eerie effects.
The 18 months or so since the release of his pop debut, Crazy Clown Time, have apparently not been kind to surrealist indie god David Lynch. That album was a dark and often disorienting affair, the terrifying gloom punctuated regularly with caffeinated hyperactivity, shards of blue-white light that left the listener unsure whether or not they actually liked it even after repeat listens. The Big Dream, on the other hand, eschews this kind of eclecticism in favour of further submersion into Lynch's most unpleasant nightmares.
Hypertextual articulation is The Big Dream’s greatest triumph. By that I mean the combining and serial montaging of David Lynch’s filmography and his authorial, celebrity/celebrated self with the abstraction of “his” sound. Here emerges a higher epistemic form: Lynch as pataphor (an unusually extended metaphor), as the literalization of himself and his function — less a signifying signifier and more a whole being on all planes.
The songs David Lynch contributed to the soundtrack for this 2007 film Inland Empire—some instrumental, some smeared with his by-now familiar, heavily processed vocal style—had a menacing quality, the diabolical tenor of his film work concentrated into dense three-minute sonic bursts. At the time, it seemed like an interesting bit of cross-medium exploration from one of cinema's preeminent mad scientists, allowing his twisted brilliance to seep out into another creative platform. Lynch hasn't directed a movie since—nor will he again, if the prickly auteur is to be believed.
We tend to view celebrities’ lives as episodic, especially ones that possess an enigmatic public persona. With filmmakers, movie stars or any individual with a certain degree of notoriety, we remember their pop culture presence in bite-sized chunks: here’s their experimental era, the golden years, the quiet retreats, the slump. For cinema auteur David Lynch, it’s as though every outlet he pursues becomes another riddle for us to decode about understanding the inner workings of his mind.
To no one's surprise, David Lynch's 2011 debut was a murky affair: vocoder pop, gothic blues and a handful of queasy character vignettes where he supplied a monologue, guitars twanged balefully and your own worst imaginings did the rest. The mood darkens further here – Lynch's croon is mired deeper in dirgey, junkyard blues – and it's harder work too, which rather militates against the carefully crafted unease. The centrepiece, a cover of Bob Dylan's Hollis Brown trudges grimly to its murderous conclusion, and not until the penultimate track and Lykke Li's final breathy cameo do real glimmers of melody pierce through the fug.
When asked in 2010 to describe his taste in music, filmmaker David Lynch told the Globe he likes what he calls “modern blues.” That ended up being the direction for his first solo album, which Lynch released to everyone’s surprise, including his own, the following year. Whereas “Crazy Clown Time,” his debut, was a fractured mix of styles — hearing Lynch sing a thumping dance track called “Good Day Today” was as jarring as any subplot in “Mulholland Drive” — his new sophomore album carefully builds a cohesive mood that carries throughout. “The Big Dream” is indeed modern blues as filtered through Lynch’s warped mind, where life unfolds in the shadows in slow motion.
As with his legendary directing career, nothing is straightforward on David Lynch’s second album. ‘The Big Dream’ is the follow-up to 2011’s ‘Crazy Clown Time’, and it sees Lynch further exploring this relatively new-found outlet for his singularly oblique tendencies. And while that debut was an intriguing diversion, this is his musical vision shaped into a starker, more richly defined whole.Unsurprisingly, it’s a very strange record.
“I found it very difficult to sing,” David Lynch has said of the process of recording his debut solo album, 2011’s Crazy Clown Time. “It’s so embarrassing… Singing is really, really frightening. ” It’s funny to think of Lynch bravely surmounting his own fear – that most daunting of obstacles – in order to turn in the tepid vocodered mewls on ‘Good Day Today’; frankly bizarre to imagine him conquering his visceral discomfort in service of the pasty, querulous twang on ‘So Glad’, or in order to deliver such maddeningly mundane verses as: “I went down to the football game / Went down to the football game / But I thought it was really a shame / I saw you with another man / I saw you with another man / Saw you with another man” (from, yes, ‘Football Game’).
Sound has always been crucial to David Lynch's film work. There was the industrial storm that blustered menacingly across Eraserhead's dystopia of writhing, bleeding chicken dinners and swaddled spermatozoon alien babies, pausing only for the swollen-cheeked Lady In The Radiator to sing her soothing (but no less sinister) tribute to the joys of heaven. Dean Stockwell's character in Blue Velvet pacifying and then enraging Dennis Hopper's petrifying Frank Booth by lip-synching to 'In Dreams' by Roy Orbison.