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Chrysta Bell – This Train

La Rose Noire

David Lynch is now 65. It’s amazing. Since the release of Eraserhead (once seen, never forgotten) in 1977, his career has seen so many ludicrously high peaks that is scarcely seems possible to précis them; Frank Booth dry humping Dorothy Valens to his climax, an oxygen mask pressed to his face whilst whining “Baby wants to fuck”, all under amniotic Edward Hopper-style lighting; Special Agent Dale Cooper rushing around madly through the heavy drapes of the Red Room inside the Black Lodge (does he get his garmonbozia?); the moment when Fred Madison finds out just why “Dick Laurent is dead”; Betty and Rita sitting rapt in Club Silencio; ‘Sue’, brutally stabbed in the stomach with her own screwdriver, collapsing and dying with the street homeless on the corner of Hollywood and Vine. Lynch’s quiff is now higher than ever, his face more lined, his mild addiction to cigarettes and meditation still fuelling a creative mind that never stands still, never follows a predictable path, and never wants to stick to any prescribed media.

Having just designed the interior of a Parisian nightclub, Lynch has also been in a musical mood, and is now releasing the fruits of recent labours in the recording studio. His first solo album Crazy Clown Time is out now, and, more or less simultaneously, his collaboration with singer Chrysta Bell has appeared to tempt and taunt us. Lynch, despite always describing himself as a ‘non-musician’ has always used music to signature effect in his films, and consistently been heavily involved in its production: a black and white still from as far back as the 1970s shows Lynch and maverick sound designer Alan Splet (now there’s a man who should have made an album or two…) jamming side by side, Lynch under a wide-brimmed hat tooting away on a trumpet, Splet bearded and bare-chested attacking a cello like Angus MacLise in a bad mood. During the early 1990s era of Twin Peaks mania, Lynch’s songwriting and Svengali-like presentation of hallucinatory blonde nightingale Julee Cruise resulted in the world of Dreampop, a floating, soothing, trippy, scary musical form, in which Lynch’s dark reveries oozed gently out of beguiling melodies and vocal performances, like being drowned gently in a huge pool of chocolate mousse. And on This Train the old master has teamed up with Bell to produce the latest vat of mousse into which we can all hurl ourselves.

Perhaps right from the outset it’s worth stating that there are few real surprises to be found here. Woozy, swelling synth lines? Check. Twangy reverb and tremolo-saturated guitar lines? Uh huh. Pounding drum beats? Sure thing. A quick look at the video clip for “Real Love” also shows a couple of stunning-looking women – one being the not-exactly-the-back-end-of-a-bus Ms Bell – standing around amidst shifting coloured lighting and raw crackling electricity, legs as long as the M1, decked out in an alluring array of lingerie. Blimey. However, if, like me, you are a David Lynch nut, then fucking hell, what are you waiting for?

The opener, title track “This Train,” starts with the steam whistle and speeding pistons of an express train, and proceeds through a lilting existential ballad of life as a train, the ambient sounds of the engine never disappearing, and Ms Bell’s pure voice hanging in the dark night air (and here in Dreampop world, it is always night) just like a flawless diamond. “Right Down To You” is a relatively straightforward tale of love, before “I Die” takes us right back into the world of chequerboard floors and billowing velvet curtains, its opiate pacing and whispered title lyric like crossing over to the other side. “Swing With Me” (er, yes please Ms Bell, when can you fit me in?) is an erotic Blues on a hot night at the Lost Highway Hotel, an invitation to a frenzied coupling in Room 37 whilst a white light fire burns in the scrubland outside.

“Angel Star” is so heavily into Lynchian somnambulism that I can hardly… stay…. conscious… to.. describe…. its…. zzzz..zzzzzzz……zzzzzzz…..arrrggghhh! Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, “Friday Night Fly” regales us with a desperate search for the heart of Friday night in the city, the urgent guitar line clicking away underneath propelling us along on a wild search for any hedonistic fun we can find. “Down By Babylon” is a haunting exploration of familial life, and perhaps the stand-out vocal performance of the album, whilst “Real Love” is just filthy. In a nice way. No, not nice, filthy in a filthy way. But nice. Naughty but nice, but not in a Dick Emery way. Dick Emery and David Lynch, together at last. “Bird of Flames,” a gentle beat and a soft pallet of background mood tones, has all the bad voices in your head whispering to you at once before Ms Bell comes over all Vocoder, an electronic Lorelei beckoning from the banks of the river. Fun and games.

“Polish Poem,” is perhaps the album’s least appealing track, a little too close to Clannad for comfort. If I want Robin the hooded man I’ll look up Michael Praed on Facebook (I’ll nearly said ‘phone book’ there, man, showing my age…), just get me back to Mr Eddy as fast as you can. Luckily, the closer, “The Truth Is,” throws us out on to the dancefloor for a little strutting amidst the crowd. The album then quietly disappears, to leave us back in the Pink Room all over again, visuals blurring, the music too loud to hear what anyone is saying, Donna Hayward out of her mind on her first trip and a fat, sweaty Jacques Renault trying to stick his tongue in your ear.

This Train is a beautiful, stylish journey into aural Lynchworld. Play it loud in the bedroom as a soundtrack to whatever takes your (dark) fantasy. In truth, it’s impossible to be impartial about it, or the relative merits of Ms Bell, but it’s night, and I’m smitten. I haven’t had this much fun since that time I found an ear on a piece of waste ground.

-David Solomons-

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