Mark Eitzel (American Music Club) Talks David Lynch’s The Big Dream

I wanna love this because I love David Lynch, and if I could just relax for 40 minutes, dammit, I would. Music is purity and pleasure and those...

I wanna love this because I love David Lynch, and if I could just relax for 40 minutes, dammit, I would. Music is purity and pleasure and those things are all over this record, and I would love to love it, baby (the way I’ve loved all his movies). The production on this is world-class — honey, it truly is perfectly engineered and produced — contrasted with Mr. Lynch’s weird, unwieldy, melodically dysfunctional vocals. He sings with the left side of his mouth stuck out in a grimace like he’s always trying to be overheard next to a train. I know I am wrong — that I miss the essential things that make music popular. Remember, dear reader, that the man writing this is the first one to say “Who the fuck are you to judge Mr. David Lynch.” Seriously, if I have suffered from false modesty in the past — I apologize endlessly (no, I really do) but insist that is not the case here.

There is definitely a sound that is “Lynchian”: some of it Angelo Badalamenti, some of it Suicide, some of it Bobby Vinton, some of it Suicide again. Still. Also, I bet that somewhere along the line he heard some Snakefinger or the Residents.

The conceit for the “singer” seems to be a simple everyman who delivers revelation from a miraculous connection to darker primordial forces. (Ha, yes, I wrote that.) He is the canary in the coalmine, the twisted oak, the gnarled prophet.

Maybe Lynch is really a true outsider to music. He uses it and loves it but doesn’t trip on it. He doesn’t care about it. His characters rant away about nothing until the chorus. He wants to recreate the claustrophobic excitement that’s in every little thing.

But while the vocal is naive, the music is really not, and somewhere along the line, The Big Dream doesn’t always add up for me. I don’t know how Lynch composes these songs but I wish they were as crazy as his voice — and that they worked to heighten the drama instead of heightening the groove.

I was on board for another Crazy Clown Time, his 2011 debut album, but this is different. I’m not sure he was trying to be more personal but the mood is not ecstatic doom — it’s more romantic.

I mean, he’s not a “songwriter.” He doesn’t try to infuse a moment with a story — instead, he creates a scene and random shit happens. He doesn’t sing like a songwriter, either — it’s more like he’s reading a script, and sometimes it works and sometimes (for me) it doesn’t.

A “real” songwriter would have put a story or bad rhyme or at least a shamelessly alliterative ladder in the verse just to keep it from being a placeholder until the chorus. Lynch doesn’t care. His characters bum around obsessively in a landscape until the chorus hits — which expresses the “darker purpose.” As in life, I guess. Not putting down the process. I mean, maybe songwriting is bullshit.

And maybe this record was not made for precious egoistic musicians who listen so very, very importantly. Maybe the songs are simply backdrops to a series of rooms. Easy. Why not. So forget this review. I am an uptight bastard who cannot sit still and just enjoy — but still, I find myself wanting more.

The producer/engineer/musician who made these sonic landscapes is very good. But it does sound as if whoever it was, was given a framework of a drum machine and a few guitars and had to clean it up and make it ready for Mr. L. to walk in and sing when he wanted to. Why? So that there would be no thought? So that the purity would never have to be examined or reworked? Because lightning hits like magic and the worst thing you can do is try to recreate it, or examine it, or overwork it? (Re: my back catalogue —ugh.)

Or else because Lynch was busy with other things. Hard to tell.

The songs I like the most:

“The Big Dream”
Beautifully produced — there’s this great “slice ‘n’ dice” section in the verse that delays pieces of the guitar throughout the groove. Yes to: “The time has come to say the words we want to hear.” It might have been a choice to feature a much more modern sonic landscape but I can’t help wondering if Mr. Lynch had much to do with it. His singing is so artless — sometimes I can’t tell how much is intended and how much is not. Which is entirely my problem.

“Wishing Well”
I love this track — “I’m going down in the wishing well.”  But then I thought, I can hear this being played on the sound system of some fab outdoor party in Cannes. The sophisticates marvel about the bold Lynchian vocal; they say that the strangled words and thoughts that wander stunned and half aware in the kind of groove that sells fancy cars and designer clothes is a revelation. And because my mind is “relaxing,” I won’t question it — I’ll just nod my head and drift around the party until I find the food.

“I Want You”
Almost achieves a Suicide-like psychotic quality which I like a lot — although I wish the subject was about something more than obsessional love — like dogs or children, for instance. Other people’s lust can get old.  I also wish the music would just decide to rock all the way through — it has breaks and parts and whatnot that seem like they’re trying to give the piece a shape — but he’s definitely going to places I like.

“The Line It Curves”
Look, I just like it — the reverb reaches Cocteau Twins levels, though Lynch sings the verse so matter-of-factly that it sounds like he’s reading lyrics off someone else’s sheet and isn’t quite sure about the whole song-and-dance of this thing called love. Very far from it. Geometry, however, he can find beautiful.

“Sun Can’t Be Seen No More”
Lynch plays a great character to sing this — some scraggly drifter who also seems to be able to do Tibetan overtone singing. Great. There’s a quality of a classic find at the Goodwill that I love a lot.

Anyway, I think a lot of people will really like this and I hope they do.

Talkhouse Contributing Writer Mark Eitzel used to be certain that the aliens would listen in on his dreams where he wrote amazing pop songs. Then they would record them and release them illegally the next day. He used to listen bitterly to the radio for his stolen songs. He has many tragic flaws. You can follow him on Twitter here.