David Lynch‘s musical legacy is not one to be trifled with. Throughout his many decades of film work, Lynch has made it a priority for the musical impact of his films to be just as haunting and brilliant as the visual. From the dystopian terror of his and Peter Ivers’ Eraserhead soundtrack to his fruitful relationship with Angelo Badalamenti (Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, Mulholland Drive), Lynch’s soundscapes have given us a cerebral experience altogether unlike any other. Over the years, Lynch has ventured into musical landscapes apart from film a couple times, notably in recent years on Dark Night of the Soul, the Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse concept record that closed out the musical career of Mark Linkous with a somber and memorable note.
But in 2011, we got a taste of what a Lynch record looks like when nothing stands between Lynch and the final musical product. As can be expected, his debut LP Crazy Clown Time was a lot. This avant-garde record rocketed across the musical horizon at pretty jarring speed, at times synthesizing 50s rock and at others alienating house grooves to isolationist territory. But with the dust settled, this year, Lynch gives us the aptly titled The Big Dream, a follow up that outdoes its predecessor in almost every single way. While still maintaining an utterly Lynchian atmosphere throughout, The Big Dream gives us an album first and a concept second. Thus, we have a record by an artistic master that we can rock out to with the windows down on a wide open highway.
The Big Dream is listenable without the clean, framework context that Lynch is predominantly a filmmaker, but that’s not to say it doesn’t still maintain some cinematic qualities. As the hazard sign of the album cover foreshadows, The Big Dream is a long, winding, and surreal drive out onto a highway on the outskirts of Lynch’s world. As we know from his films, Lynch loves using classic storytelling tropes and personas and morphing them over the course of time to fit his own needs. Here, he takes on the role of the romanticized Nashville rockstar. On “Star Dream Girl”, he spins a stylistic collage of a faceless starlet with loads of anticipation and expectation but a questionable level of concrete substance (Lynch fans, sound familiar?). On “Sun Can’t Be Seen No More”, he comes into the studio drunk and complains about the aesthetic before throwing down a driving southern rock track about losing direction on the horizon. Lynch also covers Bob Dylan with a dark and stormy rendition of “The Ballad of Hollis Brown”.
But where the story tracks set the pace, the Lynchian contrast of darkness to the light that comes in between is where the action happens on The Big Dream. On “Last Call”, “I Want You”, and the title track, Lynch employs dark, brooding hip-hop beats, heavy on the the bass drops and hi hats to contrast the slow blues of the guitar and the wandering soul-searching that Lynch does on the haunting vocals.
But where all of the overanalyzing fades and tires hit the pavement, be happy to know that much of The Big Dream holds up as a gorgeous piece of music in the doo-wop style that Lynch has shown a love for in the past. The first track to be released for the new album was the non album single “I’m Waiting Here”, featuring Lykke Li. Here, a slow six accompanies some unsurprisingly gorgeous crooning from a spirit whose eternal longing and hardened beauty make for the perfect Lynchian muse. But the cream of the crop has to be the record’s closer, “Are You Sure”. Not altogether unlike Lynch’s Twin Peaks collaboration with Angelo Badalamenti “Just You”, “Are You Sure” sees Lynch singing his heart out on a beautiful dream pop track. It’s Beach House via roadhouse country here - Lynch embodies all of dreamy mystery that his cinematic body of work has stowed in our hearts. It’s no doubt one of the best musical offerings of his career.
The Big Dream may not be for everyone, but if you are willing to take the dive into the mysterious and eternally layered world that is David Lynch, you won’t be disappointed with The Big Dream. Where Crazy Clown Time erred on the side of obscurity, The Big Dream is an impressionistic painting that, from the right distance and angle, gives the listener a near-perfect window into Lynch’s soul.
The Big Dream is out now on Sacred Bones.