How to avoid parodying himself must be director David Lynch's biggest challenge these days.
Lynch does his trademarked Lynchian dark dreams again (and again) on his solo debut album Crazy Clown Time, a collection of tunes recorded in his home studio with himself on guitar and voice. But Lynch's songs are not songs per se but obsessive single-note drones over plodding beats strewn with heavily reverbed atmospheres and sundry sounds.
“Pinky's Dream” opens the experience with the musical motifs that pervade the album: a slow thumping drum, twanging Stratocasters and scraping string ambience through heavy washes of reverb/tremolo. Its noir-concentrate ambience is aided by singer Karen O of the YeahYeahYeahs, presumably puffing a cigarette.
And who is Pinky? Lynch doesn't say exactly, he infers: “Pinky's dream / blowin' away.” The menace wisps in and out, even on “Good Day Today,” where Lynch claims he's tired of negative news but can't help savoring the tension. A few tracks such as “So Glad” stand for nothing much more than the sensual chill of slow snare thwacks and slinky tremolo'd Strats; here Lynch enacts (presumably) a creepy old misogynist railing about his departed “ball and chain.”
It's a loser rock thing that Lynch proposes, tales of unrequited or vengeful love that he cloaks in shrouds of arcane aural texture. “Noah's Ark”'s electronic beats are like a ticking clock or fluttering frightened heart; muted shimmers and a sustained steam-whistle wrap his whispers about something that's going to happen “on this dark night.” On “Football Game” his “character” sounds aging and pathetic — “I saw you with another man” — and it's like being trapped in the back seat with an old man with booze breath, and he smells like pee.
While some tracks such as “The Night Bell With Lightning” get a bit too late-nite blues jammy — lay off the whammy bar now, David — others surprise with a peppy, focused directness. The familiar themes of jilted love and righteous paybacklike on “Stones Gone” are channeled through the strangely relieving sound of programmed beats and cloudlike digital filters and FX. You want to hear what he's saying, but it doesn't matter when it climaxes in sirens and lovely lonely strings.
“Strange and Unproductive Thinking” is basically a vocoderized TM lecture atop percussive scratchy-scratch and ever more slip-sliding Strats; as it pulses forward, we actually eagerly await the next portion of Lynch's spoken observations on cosmic awareness and dental hygiene.
It's funny and genuinely profound. But by the time the languid bluesy surf-guitars of “Movin' On” and “Speed Roadster” (“I got fucked by you / fucked real bad”) roll through, we're getting a tad sick and tired of Lynch's degenerate rants for gimps and mugwumps.
David Lynch has a hollow center and he fills it with random nightmarish junk and fingers it around, so that what comes out resembles profundity. It may not be, but maybe resembling it is enough. Whatever the case, he redeems himself with the closing “She Rise Up,” whose vocodered, disembodied voice, this time, reaches out, yearns.