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David Lynch
The Big Dream JR Moores , July 19th, 2013 07:52

Sound has always been crucial to David Lynch's film work. There was the industrial storm that blustered menacingly across Eraserhead's dystopia of writhing, bleeding chicken dinners and swaddled spermatozoon alien babies, pausing only for the swollen-cheeked Lady In The Radiator to sing her soothing (but no less sinister) tribute to the joys of heaven. Dean Stockwell's character in Blue Velvet pacifying and then enraging Dennis Hopper's petrifying Frank Booth by lip-synching to 'In Dreams' by Roy Orbison. Rebekah Del Rio's show-stopping Spanish a-cappella rendition of 'Crying' - aka 'Llorando' - (Orbison again) in Mulholland Drive. The era-defining Twin Peaks soundtrack. John Morris' delicate Elephant Man score. Casting Sting in Dune.

This being his second movie-less studio album following 2011's Crazy Clown Time, perhaps Lynch is competing with fellow cult director Jim Jarmusch who's also branched into music with his Jozef van Wissem collaborations and rock group SQURL. Hopefully that Wim Wenders/Lars von Trier LP of thrash-polka duets lies just around the corner...

The Big Dream kicks off with its title track more or less setting the template for what follows. Clicking minimalist beats back moody, effects-laden trad-guitar patterns and abstract ambient washes. Lynch seems to be going for a half-speed Neil Young plays hazy blues on a dilapidated galactic cattle ranch. Lynch's voice, throughout, remains heavily distorted, yet seldom warped enough to completely conceal its innate trebly bleat. For the second track he even adds an exaggerated blues 'burr' to his pronunciation and winds up resembling a waxwork Seasick Steve melting inside a broken television.

There are, to be fair, some near-exquisite moments here. 'Cold Wind Blows' recaptures that Twin Peaks mood of forlorn melancholia. Its straightforward lyrics boast the kind of universally-appreciable sadness that Lynch's hero Orbison would be proud of: "Got a cold wind blowing / Through my heart / The game is over / You win / I lose", he sighs. This is in stark contrast to the poetical nadir of the preceding number with its uninspired chorus of "Last call / Time gentlemen please". 'Last Call's verses exhibit an even less defensible crime of insipidity: "One foot had a red sock / The other had blue / It's Tuesday, baby / Where are you?" How on Arrakis did that make it out of Lynch's transcendental jotter?

Returning to the highlights, there is a dreamlike tenderness to 'The Line It Curves'. A six minute lumber across a swampland planet spent gazing at the unreachable prettier stars, it has the fragility of one of Moby's better self-sung singles. With more of a propulsive groove than elsewhere, 'Wishin' Well' achieves a blurred, spooky sexiness. One might even be capable of dancing to it, if spiked with suitable pharmaceuticals and threatened by the tip of Frank Booth's flick-knife. 'Sun Can't Be Seen No More' has a twisted glam groove embellished by, for better or worse, an uninhibited wibbly vocal manipulation of such abundance that even Ween might deem a bit too silly. Closing ballad 'Are You Sure' aims for a 'You Were Always on my Mind'/ 'Unchained Melody' vibe of timeless sorrow which it might have achieved had it not ended up sounding naggingly like a Grandaddy b-side.

Several cuts make less impact. 'We Rolled Together' is practically indistinguishable from earlier, similar tracks and the lazy plod of 'I Want You' is just as inconsequential. The cover of 'The Ballad of Hollis Brown' has nothing of the young Dylan's righteous anger. Lines like "There's seven people dead on a South Dakota farm" are recited with all the indifference of a mechanoid newsreader. It is battery-sapped robo-folk.

The Big Dream is vaguely interesting, but not very interesting. Its noises are kinda weird, but not deeply weird. The Big Dream won't blow your mind. It won't make any permanent, irreversible impression on your susceptible imagination or have you gasping "crikey, this is unlike anything I've experienced before" like the first time your innocent senses were overwhelmed by the sublimely unsettling fantasies of Eraserhead or Lost Highway. Maybe that's too much to ask of the tower-block-barnetted polymath. After all, you'd hardly watch hip hop genius RZA's The Man With The Iron Fists expecting to discover the next Orson Welles.

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