David Lynch – Crazy Clown Time

David Lynch is best known for such head-trip film and television productions as Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks and Lost Highway. But despite his strangeness, he is no stranger to music as a medium for setting surrealistic moods. He has collaborated several times with Angelo Badalamenti on scores for projects like Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks, and composed music for Wild at Heart, Mulholland Drive and other films. He’s also collaborated on various other musical releases, including singing on two songs on last year’s Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse collaboration Dark Night of the Soul.

But with Crazy Clown Time, Lynch makes his solo debut with a sound that marries the mysterious and atmospheric feel of most of his films with a mix of blues and electro-pop. Recorded over the course of a year with producer/guitarist/drummer Dean Hurley, the album features two songs that were released in November of last year. “Good Day Today,” with its Fischerspooner-like electroclash sound, is an uplifting dance track with a hint of sarcasm. “I Know,” on the other hand, is a plodding and twangy piece that is more akin to the Badalamenti scores Lynch fans are used to hearing.

The leadoff track is “Pinky’s Dream,” a somewhat dancy track that features sparse guitar jangles and the breathy, reverbed vocals of Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Surprisingly, this is the only track featuring a guest vocalist, with Lynch singing on the rest of the songs.

Much of Crazy Clown Time sounds like Massive Attack being fronted by Tom Waits, with a sense of sophisticated angst layered over underlying pulses of twangy guitar and sexy beats. “Football Game” features Lynch singing with an effect that makes him sound like a cross between Bob Dylan and Meatwad from Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Conversely, “Strange and Unproductive Thinking” features a robot-voiced Lynch spouting abstract philosophical ideas over a hypnotic beat for more than seven minutes.

Crazy Clown Time continues to flip back and forth in this manner, somehow doing so cohesively despite the divergent and seemingly jarring contrasts in musical styles. The instrumental blues of “The Night Bell with Lightning” segues right into the new wave experimentalism of “Stone’s Gone Up,” which goes directly into the demented psychobabble of the title track.

“Speed Roadster” is a bluesy stalker anthem that almost sounds like a direct response to Screamin’ Jay Hawkins 1956 hit “I Put a Spell on You,” outwardly expressing the feelings most of us have kept to ourselves after a bitter breakup. Crazy Clown Time closes with “She Rise Up,” which effectively blends the blues and electro sounds that have done battle throughout the rest of the album, adding a lulling industrial effect that gives the album its proper closure.

Like his films, you’re likely to catch something new each time you listen to this album. However, Crazy Clown Time, despite its obvious complexities, is actually pretty easy to grasp and can be listened to either casually or with a studious ear.

David Lynch
Crazy Clown Time
[Sunday Best/PIAS America]