Known for his twisted, unfathomable cinematic creations among film buffs, David Lynch came out with a musical project this week that can have no effect but to astound listeners. The album, aptly titled Crazy Clown Time, is not Lynch’s first project outside film, but for some might pose a surprising endeavor.
The only credited guest artist is Karen O, lead vocalist of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, whose pipes can be clearly recognized weaving in and out of a strumming surf rock bass line in “Pinky’s Dream,” which is the first track. Her addition, found solely in this inaugural track, is a positive one — giving the music a human and relatable start to an otherwise distancing, confusing compilation of music.
Since the album has been publicized as a solo project, the listener can only guess that the other, male, voice filtering through the remaining 13 works is Lynch’s own singing. The sounds he produces are not ill-trained, and he manages a variety of sounds. These range from a childish rasp to a whiny adult’s crooning serenade in the first half of the album, winding down to high-pitched moans and soulful slurs at yet other points.
The main thing that can be said for Crazy Clown Time is its quality. The production value is truly excellent, especially in light of how easy it is these days for anyone with a computer to produce some form of electronic music. This factor is integral for the sonic credibility of Lynch’s experiment, which otherwise would have been downright scary — in a bad way.
This is due to the indiscernibility of his lyrics, just like any sanity in the plots of his movies. The most extreme instance of this is in “Strange and Unproductive Thinking,” where a presumptuous robotic garbling of Lynch’s voice says, in a monotone, unwavering pitch, “In the aforementioned dialogues we discovered the possibilities and the curve toward progressive behavior and the ultimate realization of the goal of evolution,” and it goes on like that for several minutes while the unsuspecting ear crumples in confusion.
Other songs might, generously, appear to hold some poeticism within, like in “These Are My Friends” when an immature Lynchian voice whispers “Got some beer and a BBQ/ Got two good ears and an eye on you.” But lines like this go nowhere, circling around without providing the listener with genuine meaning.
“Crazy Clown Time,” the titular track, gives the feeling of echoing in a cold wasteland. A strong, constant drum beat and electronic wavering notes fade in and out, punctuating the mournful wailings of Lynch’s nonsense words, or so they would seem to any listeners not quite on Lynch’s poetic wavelength.
Electronic music ordinarily changes pace frequently in the duration of a song, which Lynch’s does not — almost all his tracks are set to slow tempos that do not build up to a point. This is stylistically fine, but the effect it has is as though he is streaming vague images through the listener’s mind without having planned an emotion he wants the listener to receive from those images. The emotions caused by the imagery did not match those normally stimulated in his films — such as “Eraserhead,” which does not let the viewer’s mind rest for even a moment, leaving them an exhausted, petrified shell.
Like Lynch’s films, Crazy Clown Time was well-made and undeniably, unapologetically weird. The thing that sets the album at a level below his film work, though, is the feeling it was made for the artist’s benefit alone, withholding any possibility of meaning to the listener.
2.5 stars out of 5