David Lynch’s latest foray into unknown territory

Paul Smirl

Acclaimed filmmaker David Lynch will release his first music album Nov. 8, the aptly-titled “Crazy Clown Time.” However, Lynch is stuck in the critical crosshairs, as reviewers of the album seem unable to escape his storied cinematic past.

Famous for avant-garde cult classics such as “Blue Velvet,” “Mulholland Drive” and the television series, “Twin Peaks,” Lynch is known for having a peculiar aesthetic sense. Never scared to go against or mock current trends, Lynch has crafted a unique brand of cinematography and storytelling throughout his forty-five year career, leading some critics to coin the term “Lynchian.”

However, with “Crazy Clown Time,” Lynch’s electronic musicianship takes the forefront rather than surrealist visual imagery and non-linear plot lines. Yet, the album, which has already been described as “absurd,” “not for everyone” and within the “heady realms of exploration” is decidedly Lynchian.

Clearly a talented artiste, Lynch, in some critics’ eyes, has transcended artistic medium to create something in “Crazy Clown Time,” which is unique to his own brand of expression. But can a critic truly judge the album itself as a piece of art, detached from the creator’s past?

In a modern age where celebrities often branch off into other public fields of work, Lynch has placed himself into territory which myriad musicians, actors and athletes have occupied: he is a popular filmmaker taking a shot at music, an industry which is cold to imitators and is made up of its own stars.

Now clearly, Lynch isn’t your everyday Shaquille O’Neal (See his movie, “Kazaam” and rap album, “Shaq Diesel”) as he has explored music in the past, through selecting compositions for his films and working with musicians, Sparklehorse and Danger Mouse for their “Dark Night of The Soul” project.

It is evident that Lynch, unlike Shaq is not just trying to further his fame, but is serious about producing a great work of art. However, like Kevin Costner’s attempts to save the ocean and John McEnroe’s stint as a talk show host, can we, as listeners really take Lynch’s music seriously without ascribing our preconceived “Lynchian” notions to it?

To answer this question, one must observe the vast history of celebrity occupational switches. From William Blake, to Sinatra, to Ronald Reagan and Justin Timberlake, it is clear that switching from one public role to another doesn’t always hinder one’s success. But within the arts specifically, it is incredibly difficult to divorce one’s work in one field to pursue a seemingly exploratory venture based on curiosity: just because Josh Ritter can write songs, doesn’t mean he’s a good novelist and just because Jeff Bridges can play a country singer in a movie doesn’t mean he’s actually a good country singer.

In the end, as musician listeners or Lynch fans, it is beneficial to approach “Crazy Clown Time” from an unbiased perspective. Likewise, while comparing Lynch’s music to his films might broaden the greater context of Lynch’s artistry, it does not aid in the overall prowess of the piece itself: “Crazy Clown Time” is an album of music by a musician named Lynch and all you can do is listen to it.