Album review: David Lynch 'Crazy Clown Time'
Warning: This album is not for the faint-hearted. It’s atypical, unpredictable, and a bit uncomfortable. The epitome of an acquired taste.
My journey through filmmaker/television director turned songwriter David Lynch’s Crazy Clown Time began with the album art. The black and white, blood-etched hand holding a single red die led me to anticipate some heavy metal and in-your-face electric guitar from horror films like Saw or American Psycho.
With the first track, Pinky’s Dream, featuring Karen O of the American indie rock band the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, Lynch totally derails any of these presumptions. The album is characterised by psychedelic mood music. It’s quite similar to Cliff Martinez’s recent songs which appeared in the soundtrack of the American crime thriller Drive. While Karen O’s voice is a beautiful sound I generally always welcome, this song was not a winner for me. The lyrics are repetitive and droney and the beat quite dull. But if you wait until the next track…
Good Day Today: You’ll be very pleasantly surprised. The song, as Lynch says on the sleeve, is about “being sick of negativity”. It’s without a doubt the best track on the album. It has a few layers, beginning with a consistent base beat, layered over a droney, high-pitched voice that repeats the line “I want to have a good day today”. It introduces a few interesting sounds throughout ranging from gunshots to what sounds like an electric piano mimicking a pipe organ.
So Glad: Isn’t as exciting. It’s has a much more mello mood, using a consistent drum beat to set the slow tempo.
Noah’s Ark: Is characterised by an eerie whisper and repetitive lyrics. It’s pretty stagnant throughout until the end where the whisper starts to rise up higher and then the song fades out quite nicely into the next track…
Football Game: Didn’t really do much for me. It sounds pretty similar to So Glad. No surprises here …until the abrupt ending.
I Know: Follows up with a lone drum beat. Then slowly another layer of guitar creeps in, and is topped off by a sharp and gritty male voice. It’s pretty stagnant throughout.
Strange and Unproductive Thinking: Is certainly strange, but definitely not unproductive. This song feels like the heart and message of the entire album. There’s a really interesting back beat created by a slow, consistent bass strum playing underneath an electronic monologue reciting a surrealist philosophical essay. This track is one to be listened to while reading along with the lyrics – it’ll make you think.
Then you can take a break with the next track, The Night Bell with Lightning which is entirely instrumental and pretty similar in tone to the rest of the album.
Stone’s Gone Up: A bit more upbeat. Once you think you’ve got it figured out a whispering voice enters in and changes the entire mood. It’s definitely a head bopper though, especially once the chorus kicks in.
Crazy Clown Time: The album’s namesake was a bit underwhelming. The high-pitched voice and moaning playing underneath a very basic drum beat was boring, and well, kind of uncomfortable.
These Are My Friends: This has a sort of melancholic tone. It seems to be a slow electronic twist of a country song, with its story-telling lyrics and delivery. Eh. Made me get up and grab a coffee.
Speed Roadster: It has a similar vibe. Didn’t do much for me to be honest.
Movin’ On: A bluesy Joanna Newsome-esq feel. Kinda cool. Nothing revolutionary.
She Rise Up: Has some particularly beautiful moments. While it begins sort of slow, with monotone electronic synth vocals layed over a consistent beat, about three minutes in, the song itself seems to rise and open up. It’s a great end to the album.
Conclusion: I think this whole album is something you could play from start to finish in the background of a great conversation. It helps create a mello mood, without dominating the space you’re in.
The album is far from normal, relying on entirely atypical structures. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either. There are certainly some gems like Good Day Today and Strange and Unproductive Thinking I’ll add to my music rotation, but many of the songs, though different from mainstream indie and electro-synth are very similar to one another.
Going into this album, I expected to experience…something. David Lynch is a weird guy, he’s brilliant no doubt, but utterly strange. He’s known for his surrealist, eerie style in films such as The Elephant Man and Blue Velvet. Musically, he’s worked with American composer Angelo Badalamenti in Twin Peaks, pianist Marek Zebrowski with Inland Empire and Sparklehorse and Danger Mouse in Dark Night of the Soul.
The work was also reviewed by the New York Times, which includes an interview with Lynch who told him the high-pitched voice in some songs felt like “[…] some other character comes in and is singing”.
Long story short – this album, is unique, in that it’s entirely a ‘Lynchian’ endeavor – if you’re looking to get weird, you’ve come to the right place.