Sunday, June 10, 2012

Crazy Lynch Time - MungBeing

Crazy Lynch Time at MungBeing
Published June 2012

Crazy Lynch Time
by alison ross

Film director David Lynch is like a modern-day mash-up of Bunel, Fellini, and Bergman when it comes to surrealist moviemaking. His films are like Dali paintings in motion (or, better yet, David Wojnarowicz paintings), suffused with a gritty noir-beatnik soul. With one exception - the achingly sentimental but never saccharine "Straight Story" - his movies, at times deliriously Dada-esque, evince a lunatic lucidity, which illuminates the murky spaces in the human psyche with a battered flashlight whose bulb is about to blow.

Now that Lynch has crafted the freaky pinnacle of celluloid mindfucks - the wackily impenetrable "Inland Empire" - he has decided to indulge in another of his great passions, music. The Angelo Baladmenti-created (and sometimes collaborative) soundtracks to his thought-titillating films always infuse them with a supernatural eeriness, so it would logically follow that Lynch would want to try his hand at generating surrealistic sounds. And yet, the idea is also a wince-worthy one... a mature, celebrated director who is not by trade a musician suddenly deeming himself tune-talented? Obviously this seemingly innocuous and even intriguing experiment could fail miserably, kind of like how the seemingly innocuous and even intriguing Lou Reed/Metallica experiment DID fail miserably, causing deep chagrin for both participating parties.

But hey - what does Lynch have to lose? If his tunes suck, he always has his film fetish to fall back on. Lou Reed and Metallica are musicians by vocation, and so the potential for career damage looms; Lynch, on the other hand, is free to approach music as a side-project hobby, psychologically liberated from the hell of humiliation. I am giddy to report that Lynch's tunes on "Crazy Clown Time" do NOT suck, and so Lynch is not forced into the cave of chagrin. Not that it would matter to him, really, because Lynch seems cooly confident enough to cavalierly dismiss any grave insults hurled his way. So the songs themselves are a mishmash of styles, not terribly convoluted in their arrangements.

Too, Lynch's vocals are far from polished, but rather playfully amateur, almost spoken-word at times, and occasionally processed through various studio devices. His vocal tenor sways back and forth from a sort of Zen monotone to an aggressive falsetto - but often he just relaxes into his mellow California drawl.

Lyrically AND musically there is a lot of moody humor, akin to the dark irony of, say, many Tom Waits songs. There is a sense of solemnly comical self-awareness pulsing through these songs. Is there such thing as Deadpan Music? Because if not, Lynch has invented another musical genre. Or perhaps the genre he's forged can be more accurately described as Dada Music, since he seems to revel with absurd amusement throughout the album.

The musical styles range from new wave and techno through to grimy blues and rock. You get the sense that some of these songs, stripped of vocals, could actually be played in dance clubs. But there are also songs that "drone" in Lynch's inimitable way (much the way his movies might, at times, drone). For example, the song, "Strange and Unproductive Thinking" plays like a Buddhist chant (with Lynch's monotone, auto-tuned vocals) and lyrics that delve into the mystical state of being, one whose beatific nature is maimed by destructive thinking. The lyrics are meditational but leavened by the humorous exploration of how tooth decay can exacerbate negative thoughts and ultimately harm health.

Lyrically, the other songs dwell on topics such as a disconcerting backyard party ("Crazy Clown Time"), relationship severance relief ("So Glad You're Gone"), a seemingly drug-fueled nightmare ("Pinky's Dream"), and a strange and intense liaison ("Rise Up"). "Crazy Clown Time" is just that - the bizarrely clownish Lynch using music as his surrealist playground. It's something not to be taken too seriously, and yet, the album is also marked with an earnest artistry that gives the tunes honest merit. And the best part of all is that the album could serve as a soundtrack to any of his more chiaroscurist cinematic offerings, with their frantically flickering light bulbs and shrewd interplay of glow and shadow. These songs are at once radiant and overcast, in signature Lynchian style.

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