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First Listen: David Lynch, 'Crazy Clown Time'

<p>David Lynch's debut album, <em>Crazy Clown Time, </em>comes out Nov. 8.</p>
Chris Saunders
Courtesy of the artist

David Lynch's debut album, Crazy Clown Time, comes out Nov. 8.

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If any movie director is as well-known for his sound design as for his camera work, it's David Lynch. The surrealist auteur behind Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive and Eraserhead represents such a distinct sensibility that he's earned his own adjective — Lynchian — to describe his signature juxtaposition of the phantasmagorical and the mundane.

Lynch has injected this sensibility into his entire oeuvre — which includes everything from painting and photography to a daily weather report and a Parisian nightclub — and his musical collaborations are no exception. For decades, he's worked with composer Angelo Badalamenti on his scores, like the masterful soundtrack to the noir TV show Twin Peaks. Alternately employing lush synths and goofy smooth jazz, the pair also rendered uneventful scenes nerve-wracking by undercutting them with a low drone. More recently, Lynch sang with Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse on the Dark Night of the Soul compilation. So, while Crazy Clown Time might be a debut album from a new artist, it's not without certain expectations.

To those familiar with these tendencies, the content of Crazy Clown Time should come as no surprise. Written, performed and produced by Lynch with engineer Dean Hurley, Lynch's first solo album finds him meandering through a series of dark dreams and visceral meditations on modern life and society. Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs supplies guest vocals for the opening track, but otherwise Lynch is front and center.

When it comes to the music, he stays inside a few heady realms of exploration: moody electronic dance beats, yowling blues slide guitar and a heavy use of delay, thick reverb and slow, creeping chord progressions. The first single, "Good Day Today," bumps along with pulsing polyrhythms. Later, that familiar drone returns, this time mixed with sound effects of rain, sirens and a moaning woman. Other tracks play it vampy and languid, laying back to let "Wicked Game"-style guitars set the scene. They're songs that Lynch's characters might dance to late at night at his club Silencio.

But the true Lynchian effect lies in the vocals. His voice takes on a different type of distortion for each song: whispered harmonic layers in "She Rise Up," a high-pitched warble for "Crazy Clown Time." This title track, perhaps the most frightening song on the record, describes a nightmarish backyard party told from the perspective of a childlike observer. While all of this might sound a bit oblique, fans looking for a concise summary of Lynch's worldview won't get much closer than "Strange and Unproductive Thinking." Over a groove that's like "Stuck in the Middle With You" on codeine, Lynch's robotic monotone muses about everything from spiritual enlightenment to tooth decay.

It sounds absurd, yes, and Crazy Clown Time — out Nov. 8 — won't be for everyone. But you can be sure that no two people will come away with the same experience of this record, and there aren't many artists working today who can make that claim.

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Eleanor Kagan
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