David Lynch’s last album, Crazy Clown Time, offered another fascinating insight into the madcap mind of its creator. It was good, but it felt a bit aimless – less album; more sonic experimentation. His latest meanwhile, The Big Dream, depicts a man being electrocuted on its cover in the style of one of those ominous lurid ‘Danger of Death’ signs, although this only belies what lies beneath for in the fifty-five minutes that follow, Lynch doesn’t so much shock you to death as much as he slowly and unassumingly lulls you into a truly catatonic state.
He this time swings between his own take on two particular genres: mid-’90s ambient background music, and more guitar-driven bluesy numbers. (I hate using that particular term, but it feels the only applicable adjective here.) As a sonically cohesive unit, it works much better than its predecessor, with Lynch sounding more confident in himself and as a result, there are some genuinely great moments to be had. The Line It Curves comes on all Cocteau Twins, with its soaring chorus and shimmering background; the sinister I Want You shows that Lynch has clearly been taking pointers from T-Rez while collaborating with the NIN lynchpin; and Cold Wind Blowin’ sounds like something a bequiffed ’50s heartthrob would’ve been satisfied to croon to throngs of hysterical teenage girls. And finally, much like Lynch opened Crazy Clown Time with Karen O, he ends The Big Dream saddled up alongside Swedish songstress Lykke Li, who lends her ethereal vocal to the breathy balladry of I’m Waiting Here. This too works fantastically.
It’s not all good, though: Wishin’ Well starts off akin to that notorious early noughties smash All The Things She Said, before veering off into some sort of half-baked Morcheeba pastiche. It’s a dud. Similarly, We Rolled Together trundles along providing little excitement but as was with Crazy Clown Time, what he sings is of little consequence. It’s instead what he’s able to conjure up in terms of atmosphere, and the thoughts and feelings it subsequently evokes, that is of paramount importance. Lyrics merely provide an excuse for his reedy voice to texture said atmosphere – there’s certainly something insidious about his nasal drawl.
But Lynch is, in his own highly idiosyncratic manner, constantly reinventing his own wheel both in his films (see Wild at Heart for his skewed update of the road movie) and in his music: Sun Can’t Be Seen No More is his take on, say, Canned Heat’s On the Road Again, during which he settles for the standard of warping his vocal horribly around guitars routed through a Big Muff tanked up to eleven.
You could indeed imagine The Big Dream providing the perfect soundtrack to driving around some seedy part of Los Angeles, before slipping out and making it to Big Sur. When these songs have real purpose (Say It sounds a lot better than it is, purely out of what precedes it) they sound potent and work just right. At times of late you’ve gotten the feeling that Lynch is concertedly trying to be weird just for the sake of it (for which this time see his Twitter feed) in order that he might uphold his own reputation as the idiosyncratic, wholly eccentric overlord of cinema. Though he’s quashed that need on much of this album, and it’s to its great benefit for it stands alone as a solid musical entity. I’ve mentioned it before, but the fact that he’s sixty-seven and is making music like this is quite remarkable. It’s safe to say there’s most certainly still life in the ol’ dawg yet…
Released: July 15th, 2013 [Sunday Best]