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David Lynch – Crazy Clown Time

Sunday Best

Hey, who’s the new guy? He’s in his mid sixties. He’s got a good quiff. Meditates a lot. Smokes a lot too. Claims to not be a musician. Is he one of those Punk Rockers? Don’t think so. He’s a former Eagle Scout from Missoula, Montana. His father worked for the Department of Agriculture. Faced down some pretty scary times in Philly.

And so, here is the debut offering from new guy David Lynch. Coming hot on the heels of his recent high-profile [post=chrysta-bell-this-train text=”stint in the producer’s chair”] for the lovely Ms Chrysta Bell, he’s obviously making up for lost time in the music department. Crazy Clown Time it’s called. Clowns. Man, most people find clowns a little scary. Many people outright hate them. Crispin Glover, who worked with Lynch a while back – you remember Cousin ‘Jingle’ Dell, the one who thinks the men with black rubber gloves are destroying the spirit of Christmas and puts cockroaches on his anus – he also made a record about them, Clowny Clown Clown, came out back in ‘89.

This whole album’s wild at heart and weird on top. It kicks off with a Lynchian synth chord so distinctive it might as well have his face on it, before launching into a low-key Euro Disco piece, thick with Lynch’s voice, treated and distorted, wandering along the beach at Vocoderland. Given that Lynch has stated of the idea of singing in public, “if fear could catch a person on fire, I would burst into flames even if we talked it too much more,” such manipulation seems a natural first line of fire-retardant defence. It also lends the track a typically spooky aesthetic, his plaintiff desire to have a good day today undermined by just how fucking weird he sounds. The whole thing sounds less like a day dream and more like a nightmare without end.

My dog barks some.

“So Glad” sees the voice considerably more au naturale, yet that somehow does nothing to make the mood itself any more natural. Over a crack-crack beat, isolated bottom end notes and stabs of guitar, Lynch celebrates the departure of an old and obscure object of desire. Don’t come back. Many people have tried to summon the real spirit of the Blues over the years, but, let’s be honest, if Lynch turned up at the crossroads at midnight, both Robert Johnson and the Devil would turn on their heels and scarper as fast as their little cloven hooves would carry them, “Man, I’m hip to Eliphas Lévi, but that Lynch cat just spooks me right out.”

“Noah’s Ark” regales us with a tale of rain on a dark, dark night, a song of love over an insistent rhythm, Lynch whispering in our ear. Lovely. Horrible. A song of love? Really? On “Football Game,” where Lynch’s cracked and muffled vocals sit beautifully over guitar riffs that make you wonder whether he’s been hanging out with Jon Spencer recently, he uses the titular sporting event as the backdrop for a story of infidelity and potentially violent revenge. The whole track sits there and broods like a violent drunk swaying around on a barstool. “I Know” could be The Bad Seeds with the local vagrant at the microphone instead of St Nick, and “Strange and Unproductive Thinking” is so surprisingly upbeat and – shit man – even danceable, that you could shimmy away happily on the dancefloor whilst Lynch ponders on the metaphysics of positive thinking as you do so. “The Night Bell With Lightning” is signature stuff, a slow and lazy beat, ringing, languid guitar. Is it overly familiar? Kinda, but somehow it doesn’t seem to matter now it’s dark. Is he really referencing Donizetti? Who knows? “Stone’s Gone Up” I could even see being a hit if it weren’t for the fact that the half-spoken vocals are more like The Residents than Adele. Maybe some kind of collaboration could be good?

Here’s to Ben.

The title track would possibly be the most unsatisfactory of the album, save for the truly demented story of Sally that sits across it. It feels as though the spirit of Frank Booth has perhaps slipped unnoticed into the studio and is now wrecking havoc behind the mixing desk. It’s “Crazy Clown Time” as there are female moans of ecstasy in amongst the dark ambient headsoup. “These Are My Friends” is a rather disturbing elegy to our hero’s peer group and his table painted red, whilst the doom-laden “Speed Roadster,” featuring some lovely and low-key hi-hat, takes us down to the river’s edge, “Guess you could say I mighta been sort of stalking you baby.” How reassuring. And given Lynch’s apparent career-long inability to utter profanities, hearing him swear so violently here is no mean thrill. Wow, Frank Booth really has joined in. “Movin’ On” is a real album highlight, all Wings of Desire black and white, angels on the decaying drag of Main Street, the American Dream slowly rotting from the inside out. Just go and take a drive around Detroit. “She Rise Up” sounds like it was recorded beside a stream hammer, another obsessional story focussed around a love object, one whose personal safety and sanity one worries for in the wee small hours. “Pinky’s Dream” sees Karen O at the microphone, a mini narrative of the road, like the soundtrack to a No Exit Press novel about a couple of small-time grifters.

Some commentators have seen the album as something of a baffling irrelevance in terms of Lynch’s career, not ‘finished’ enough, or ‘surprising’ enough. That’s to miss the point as surely as Sailor walking away from love thinking that he is a manslaughterer and a no good. Here, a man who has redefined his art on any number of occasions and whose next work could, conceivably be as good as ever after decades and decades – and how many creative artists can you say that about – is seeking to explore a new medium, seeing where it takes him and having fun along the way. The results, to these ears, are pretty damned fine. Play it in the dark, in your car, when looking out at the city lights. Just keep the doors and windows locked.

As the man once said,

My childhood was elegant homes, tree-lined streets, the milkman, building backyard forts, droning airplanes, blue skies, picket fences, green grass, cherry trees. Middle America as it’s supposed to be. But on the cherry tree there’s this pitch oozing out – some black, some yellow, and millions of red ants crawling all over it. I discovered that if one looks a little closer at this beautiful world, there are always red ants underneath. Because I grew up in a perfect world, other things were a contrast.

In Heaven, everything is fine.

-David Solomons-

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