Back in August, we shared the news that Director / Auteur David Lynch was giving film a rest for a moment to release his recording debut, Crazy Clown Time. Three months have passed, and Crazy Clown Time is now – the album hit shelves on November 8. Lynch is best known for his film work, which is consistently moody, dark and disturbing. It should be of no surprise that when Lynch moves into the medium of recorded music, the result is consistently moody, dark and disturbing.
Lynch has long exhibited an ear for music in choosing the aural backdrops to his films, which makes this album not entirely out of left field for the director. And that is perhaps the blessing / curse of Crazy Clown Time – it sounds like a soundtrack to a Lynch film, not out of place alongside music from Lost Highway, Fire Walk With Me or Muholland Drive. That’s a good thing in that it fits well into an established body of work that Lynch has produced over the last few decades. It’s a bad thing in that longtime fans of Lynch’s work (including his meticulously curated soundtrack albums) will find few if any surprises on Crazy Clown Time. Pitchfork’s Mike Powell quipped that the album is “familiar to the point of redundancy.” That may be a bit harsh, but it is a valid critique. Indeed, Lynch could have marketed the album as outtakes from his film soundtracks and few would have known the difference. Yet in a way, that is also the album’s strength. Fans of Lynch soundtracks will find appeal in tracks like “So Glad,” “Football Game” and “I Know,” among others.
Notably absent from Crazy Clown Time however is Lynch’s longtime composer-collaborator Angelo Badalamenti. From 1986’s Blue Velvet onward, Badalamenti has been the mastermind behind much of the original music featured in Lynch productions. Lynch most likely wanted the album to stand as on its own, but one has to wonder whether Badalamenti’s involvement would have given the project a bit more focus. As seems to be my constant criticism recently, Crazy Clown Time is simply too long of an album for what it accomplishes. Its 14 tracks come in at over 68 minutes. While there are a number of enjoyable tracks in the mix, the album doesn’t really go anywhere creatively or conceptually. By the time the listener makes it to the final third of the album, Crazy Clown Time begins to feel monotonous and a bit of a chore to get through. Of course, brevity has never been Lynch’s strong point (recall the 3 hour Inland Empire, the DVD of which boasted 90 minutes of outtakes). While such an extended format often works in Lynch’s films, it makes the album seem to lack any real coherent vision or focus. As a friend recently commented, “sometimes there’s only so much ‘mood‘ that you can take.”
There are good songs here, don’t get me wrong. “So Glad,” “I Know” and “Football Game” are just dark enough, just creepy enough and just aurally interesting enough to hold audience attention. One of the album’s strongest cuts is The Karen O.-fronted “Pinky’s Dream,”” which raises the question as to whether this album should have been a Lynch-driven vehicle for other artists to hop on board Such projects are always risky, but there are enough artists out there who would jump at the chance to work with Lynch, and I think that his ear is discriminating enough to make interesting choices.
Alas, that is not what we have here. Although Lynch’s first full length foray into music doesn’t exactly leave the listener breathless, it does fit snugly into Lynch’s larger body of work. You can’t knock the man for being consistent.