Crazy Clown Time by David Lynch

11.08.11 via Sunday Best Recording/PIAS

David Lynch’s deep appreciation for music is no secret and now, the director known for his meticulous and experimental sound design choices, has gone and made an album based on the imagery in his delightfully twisted brain. Crazy Clown Time sounds like what it is: a debut album from a talented surrealist filmmaker—nothing more, nothing less.

Upon listening to the Lynch’s first full-length release, one can imagine the tracks playing to Lynchian moving pictures; snippets of Crazy Clown Time’s songs would serve as brilliant accompaniments to Lynch’s dark disturbing dreamscapes. This is an important observation, as the real problem with Crazy Clown Time is just that: it is an album full of songs that cannot truly be defined as such; they sound like fragments—moments—that popped into Lynch’s wonderfully bizarre mind, but instead of building upon them, Lynch restricts and extends them—to sometimes painful lengths—never allowing the tracks to flourish into full blown experiences. Because of this, Crazy Clown Time neither endears nor challenges its listeners—and it never quite satisfies.

Lynch is not new to composition; he has worked on numerous musical projects as part of his film and television endeavours. He seems to construct his film scenes by attacking them from all angles, building both sonic and visual layers simultaneously. Crazy Clown Time is Lynch’s first full-length solo project that is strictly audio-based—and it suffers without the addition of visual stimuli. The album, which has been (loosely) classified as electro-pop, opens with wistful Pinky’s Dream sung by Karen O. At first this seems like a wise choice on Lynch’s part; an opening track sung by a woman who can typically be described as a firecracker should spark interest and captivate the listener’s attention, but Karen’s normally punchy voice is so heavily washed in reverb that it sounds lacklustre, and the song falls flat as a result. Lynch uses numerous vocal effects on the album resulting in three very different singers: a creepy child-like man, an unknown creature with a distorted scratchy whisper of a voice and an impassioned philosophical robot. The robot is particularly riled up on Strange and Unproductive Thinking—a seven and half minute abstract essay, or as Lynch calls it: a “meaningless conversation”.

There are other moments on the album that border on bluesy, such as moody instrumental track The Night Bell With Lightning —an album standout— and These Are My Friends a song that sounds like it’s playing through a battery powered radio that is about to run out of juice. On the latter track, Lynch delivers the lyrics with an almost comedic twang. Lynch’s strange vocal choices actually draw some anticipation from the listener; one wonders what he will try next, and it’s hard not to giggle when he goes all marble-mouthed on the tremolo laden Football Game, or become disturbed by his juvenile coos amidst throaty female moans on the overtly sexual title track.

Lynch is a master of magnetic confusion; he has an uncanny ability to exploit the bizarre in his films, enthralling his audience to the point of obsession. His skilfully crafted abstract narratives and magnificent cinematography envelop viewers, lingering long after the final credits have rolled. This ability to both entrance and draw the audience into his maniacal clutches is precisely what Lynch has misplaced on Crazy Clown Time. There is no mistaking that he had fun creating this album. He obviously has an undeniable love and appreciation for music, but the LP feels like an experimental side project that he made for himself. The songs are akin to a bunch of puzzle pieces—spliced together with heaps of vocal effects and guitar pedals; they never gain enough momentum to stimulate the audience. Perhaps if the listeners had an inkling of what Lynch was thinking about when creating each song, greater bonds could be built, but it is impossible to even begin to imagine what sort of images plaster the walls of Lynch’s mind.

Crazy Clown Time is interesting, but underwhelming; Lynch’s music would work better if it was condensed into soundtrack material. It’s clear that he recorded this album because he loves music and he felt like doing so. No one is going to knock him personally for it because he is a man that likes to push boundaries and really has nothing to prove. He is David-freakin’-Lynch, after all.

— By Amanda Gallagher, freelance writer and wearer of many (tiny) hats.

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