Rock & roll is as intrinsic to the work of David Lynch as creepy ambient noise. No other auteur could have so easily normalized the juxtaposition of Angelo Badalamenti’s gripping soundtrack with the sentimentality of Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams.”
Lynch relishes submerging audiences into the nightmarish decay under the tinsel and sheen. It's a duality prevalent in Twin Peaks: The Return, where Black Lodge doppelgängers wreak havoc on our world, appearing all-too-normal on the surface.
Most Twin Peaks episodes have featured live bands playing the Bang Bang Bar (aka the Roadhouse) in the end credits, including Chromatics and The Cactus Blossoms. (An exception is Part 7, which closes with “Sleepwalk” by Santo & Johnny on the Double R Diner’s jukebox as Lynch’s own unnerving sound design undercuts its sweet melody.) While the musical acts have been stellar, none so far has been L.A.-based — which is a shame, as Lynch really had to look no further than his own backyard for darkly chic tunes to ease the show’s metaphysical blow.
There's a garage-rock revival happening in L.A. right now that comes along once in a generation, where crooners and rockers honor doo-wop and proto-metal alike, and the tags “sexy,” “scary” and “dreamy” radiate in the same fuzzed-out gasp. Here are 10 bands that could've made the Lynchian cut:
Death Valley Girls
The soul of doom-boogie outfit Death Valley Girls stems not just from a healthy obsession with Manson Family mythos but also the proto-punk and psych-rock sounds that brewed up in that blood-soaked summer of ’69 courtesy of bands such as The 13th Floor Elevators and The MC5. Undergoing a change of personnel since their LP Glow in the Dark, DVG reportedly have only gotten harder, darker and more versatile. Bonnie Bloomgarden’s primal vocal wailing and Larry Schemel’s fiery ax still serve as crux, as “Hell’s house band” descends further into L.A.’s underbelly with cackles and witchy chants.
The long-awaited Apocalipstick, follow-up to the more whimsically youthful debut, Haxel Princess, solidified singer-songwriter Clem Creevy’s standing as unabashed feminist trailblazer among her rocker contemporaries. Songs like “Told You I'd Be With the Guys” and “Nurse Ratched” are soul-sister proclamations of solidarity that could've saved Laura Palmer, and Creevy cooing “She's a wild one in the land that's supposedly free” is nothing short of iconic in a 21st-century Hollywood whose patriarchal walls are slowly caving in.
Ultra-cool desert rock trio Sade Sanchez, Irita Pai and Ellie English are L.A.’s official rock & roll coven. They’ve been prowling the scene with poignant singles for four years, and everyone’s eager to consume their debut LP (out this September) like it’s sacramental wine. All three corners of the trinity are distinctly represented: English hits the skins harder than any drummer in L.A., Pai’s bass lines rattle you to the core, and Sanchez’s haunting vocals and distorted reverb top it off in a confluence of sheer rock force that summons the forgotten ghosts and demons of Old Hollywood past.
This teen punk foursome have rocketed into the indie-rock stratosphere with the release of their debut LP, Feel Your Feelings Fool! With the latest video for the feminist battle cry “Seashore” premiering on EW.com, they can already sniff mainstream success. Driving riffs accompanied by Lydia Night’s old-soul vocals signify the band’s roots in classic Doc Pomus jingles as much as in the mod punk flair of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. In the spirit of Lynch’s Blue Velvet, The Regrettes veer with impressive grace between idyllic teenage romance and the bummer reality of adult delirium.
A truly unique act, Bell Stray weaves her multi-instrumental talents — everything from synth to drums to harpsichord — into a melodically dissonant sonic tapestry. The highlight, though, are her vocals, which ride an unsettling line between innocent and sinister. She croaks out tunes The Man from Another Place can groove to. The EP Scribble the Pink features “Poison Dreams,” a song Stray attributes to her disillusionment with the American Dream, a theme Lynch himself seems to grapple with.
Alexandra James resembles Amy Winehouse with a Luciferian kick. Draped in a black veil, human skull in hand, you'd think this murder-bluesy queen’s consort was Beelzebub himself. In fact, her husband, Zachary James, shares the stage and slays a mean Les Paul. At max capacity, Twin Temple are a seven-piece voodoo jazz gang. “Girl Trouble” is a testament to their unique gothic Hollywood sound. Squares in the ’50s would've lost their minds over the suggestion of Satanic doo-wop, but these days it’s practically a necessity.
This noir-pop group led by singer-drummer Paige Stark and guitarist Luke Paquin could be an invention of Lynch himself, engineered to lull Angelenos into a meditative state. Their fully realized debut LP, appropriately dubbed The Dream, arrived earlier this year, filled with their signature Ronettes-like drum beats and creeping noise guitar. “Girls on T.V.” sounds like Laura Palmer’s posthumous transmission: “Everyone will know me/Everyone will like me/And I will never die.”
With their divey, rockabilly debut album, Songs of Love and Despair, The Abigails quickly became a favorite lo-fi country act. But after 2014’s Tundra, baritone-voiced frontman Warren Thomas spiraled into drugs, killing any hope of a proper tour. Last year, he fortunately found his way out of the Black Lodge, and the band have hit the road, writing new songs. Hopefully we’ll hear more honky-tonk jangles like “Always” or bottleneck ballads like “Space and Time,” which spends as much time ruminating up in the cosmic void as it does down in the dust.
Isaac Rother & the Phantoms
If you think we’ve pulled out all the witchy stops, think again. Isaac Rother and his band of miscreants put on ghoulish theatrics with the best of them. His latest EP, Five Hits From Hell!, drips with the underlying mystic beats of Bo Diddley and the booming vox of The Animals’ Eric Burdon, and neither the Isaac Rother sound nor the aesthetic would be complete without the backup singing and go-go dancing of Tatiana Sandate. Don’t be fooled by the costume camp and kooky, Vincent Price–inspired diatribes. This cat is for real.
Lastly, we arrive at the veritable Joni Mitchell of Echo Park … if Joni Mitchell also had spent half her time shredding in hardcore bands. Shannon Lay is one-fourth of the riotous punk outfit Feels, and her bright orange bangs are a familiar sight in the L.A. underground. Lay’s first solo album, All This Life Goin Down, easily contends with any more mainstream rock release of 2017. Her angelic, folky crooning would do justice to the Julee Cruise ballads that haunted early Twin Peaks. In true Lynchian fashion, Lay embraces the dark as much as the light.