Rock ‘n’ roll might be a young man’s game, but the blues gets better with age. At 65 years old, film director David Lynch has crafted his debut album, Crazy Clown Time, a dark and moody work of what he calls “modern blues.” Heavy on the whammy bar, minor chords, vocal reverb and vocoder effects, Crazy Clown Time is at once spooky and angst-ridden. Aside from the opening track, “Pinky’s Dream,” which features the vocals from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O, Lynch croons, whispers and vocoders his way through a macabre swamp of electrified blues. That’s not to say that Crazy Clown Time is a bum trip—more than anything, it’s weird.
Alone with a guitar and a drum machine, Lynch often opts for an underwhelming approach. He populates songs like “Noah’s Ark” with a simple beat, minimal bass, ambient synthesizer and his own creepy whisper. His drum-machine beats lurch and pulse, occasionally sparse (“I Know”) and at times fast-paced and four-on-the-floor (“Good Day Today”), and usually the instrumentation follows in suit. The songs feel half-full, as if Lynch went about constructing songs with the minimum amount of mess and noise.
At times like “Strange And Unproductive Thinking,” Lynch showcases his weird, heady wit with a long robotic monolog about “the ultimate realization of the goal of evolution” that, six minutes in, turns out to be a soliloquy touting the “possibilities of dental hygiene and the remarkable idea of a world free of tooth decay.” The angst on the surface of Crazy Clown Time—the bleak, empty instrumentation, the alien vocals and eery whispers—feels almost like a joke on the audience or on teenagers or on old man Lynch himself. In “Crazy Clown Time” he uses a high cartoonish whine of a voice to describe what seems like some nightmare of a party populated by “Bobby” and “Kimmy” and “Suzy.” As in his films, Lynch evokes an unsettling, thrilling and mysterious surrealism that works more on our darkest moods than on reason or logic.
Lynch has had a hand in the soundtracks to many of his films, including Eraserhead and Dark Night Of The Soul, but Crazy Clown Time is his first musical effort to stand alone. David Lynch’s debut album is over an hour of downtempo, dementedly sad and distinctly Lynchian work that is more interested in evoking a mood than in making sense or being particularly diverse—but in a way, that’s its biggest strength. Lynch doesn’t have anything to prove or industry professionals to impress because his career doesn’t rely on Crazy Clown Time. This freedom allowed him to get as crazy and dark and weird as he wanted, and the result is strangely captivating.