Best known for his dark and often perplexing films, multimedia artist David Lynch is back with his second LP of non-film music, The Big Dream. The follow up to 2011’s Crazy Clown Time, The Big Dream very much continues in the same vein as its predecessor. Lynch has recently characterized his musical style as “modernized blues,” and while the song structures tend to follow a blues-based progression, it is once again the electronic elements and overall darkness of Lynch’s music that most immediately characterize The Big Dream.
In fact, the two albums are remarkably similar in style and tone. While there’s something to be said for that kind of consistency across albums, Crazy Clown Time wasn’t a strong enough musical experience to bear repeating. The Big Dream is arguably a bit more focused, with a more cohesive, unified vision across its 12 tracks. But the problem with Lynch’s musical style is that while the songs would fit perfectly within the context of his film soundtracks, his musical ventures fail to stand on their own merits. Identifiable hooks are generally absent, and the compositions all kind of blur together, none standing out from the others, or even offering much in the way of distinctiveness from one track from the next. Thus, much like Crazy Clown Time, listening to The Big Dream becomes a somewhat boring endeavor by the album’s final third.
Certainly, Lynch isn’t setting out to make pop records here. But it seems that he’s appropriated his filmmaking technique to his musical work, without adequately adapting his method to a purely aural medium. The songs very clearly set a mood (as Lynch has so expertly done in his films), and convey a sense of darkness, foreboding, even a sinister atmosphere. And while some of the songs are effective in isolation (as is the case with “The Ballad of Hollis Brown” and “Star Dream Girl”), as a holistic work, the album simply does not offer much in the way of a compelling or particularly interesting musical experience. Interestingly enough, The Big Dream‘s strongest track is “I’m Waiting Here,” an bonus track exclusive to iTunes that features vocals from equally moody songstress Lykke Li. Like the Crazy Clown Time track “Pinky’s Dream” (in which Karen O. took over vocal duties), “I’m Waiting Here” underscores that as far as his music is concerned, Lynch is most effective when working in a collaborative dynamic. Consider also that much of the classic work from his film soundtracks is the product of collaboration not only with composer Angelo Badalamenti, but often exceptional vocalists (i.e. Jullee Cruise, Koko Taylor, Jimmy Scott). An album stacked with more such collaborations may be the key to Lynch making a more noteworthy full length. Barring that eventuality, perhaps the extent of his musical involvement should remain in film soundtracks.