Sound — 8
When we sit down and take stock of some of the weirdest and most wonderful characters on our earth, we'll have to consider David Lynch. His life has been one big dream, and not just because his films make you feel like you've sniffed a sharpie and been swallowed by a vacuum cleaner. His unhinged approach to film-making has somehow meant unprecedented success, and quite remarkably (quite rightly) he has ended up as one of the world's most celebrated auteurs. When he ventured into the world of solo music with 2011's "Crazy Clown Time," people weren't quite sure what to say: "baleful," said Q; "warped," said Spin; "couldn't the album use more abstraction-heavy lectures?" said Pitchfork. It felt like a film soundtrack, but wound up far less appealing than anything he did for "Blue Velvet" or "Eraserhead." Claiming greater confidence in his abilities this time, Lynch has pulled "Crazy Clown Time"'s two primary genres (electronic music and rock 'n' roll) into sharper focus. He calls it "modern blues." In practice that means his pentatonics, his aged twang and his brushes with the Bigsby are all doused in effects, heavily processed and shivering with surrealism. The programmed drums beat at a slow pace, inviting the listener to explore the myriad textures and oddities of engineering on offer. Conventional this is not, but the composer's inherent weirdness is indulged by the production while rock 'n' roll accounts for much of the rest. There is a formidably heavy layer of sub-bass that pounds and pounds, testing the dynamic boundaries when played through speakers that are ready to take it. The album sounds remarkably different depending on where you listen and how you adjust the frequencies; it can be dormant space-blues in ear-buds or apocalyptic bass destruction when it goes through bigger boxes. But there is compositional nous beneath it all. Choked snares and delicate palm mutes fill "Last Call" with brain matter for this modern blues. "Cold Wind Blowin" sounds right at home next to a Bob Dylan cover. "The Line It Curves" is vintage songmanship furnished with faint swathes of psychedelia, like Bowie covering Pink Floyd from the other side of an aquarium. The guy can write a tune. Whenever a song is repeated it emerges anew at a slightly different angle, making the album samey after one listen but utterly immersive after three or four.
Lyrics — 7
Like "Inland Empire," "Say It" runs a vein of perversion through the illusion of show business, while the off-colour humour of "Star Dream Girl" and "I Want You" recalls shades of "Twin Peaks." Perhaps surprisingly, Lynch's lyrics are comprehensible at the first time of asking, which is a sign of his getting to grips with the craft and a sign, too, that he can produce a genuine take on the blues' bare, honest expression. For a man of such intellectual muscle his nasal approach to singing is rather delicate, but it is endearing in its quieter moments. "Are you sure," he asks, reminding us of the album's human qualities with almost apologetic tones. It's probably the first time in Lynch's career that people will like him for the feelings he puts them through as he exhibits his art.
Overall Impression — 8
Poor man, though. He's proven that he can cut the mustard as a recording artist even though he sounds like a wasp. Those who acquire the taste can count themselves lucky, but it's far from essential to enjoying "The Big Dream" - the songs speak for themselves and they'll have something new to say every time you listen. They're not all classics, but that's just the thing Lynch is not just scoring movies or laying down tracks in the hope that the next dose of reverb will scratch his creative itch. He's singing songs now, and some of them flirt with true genius. If you buy into the dream, then the future is bright.