As with anything director, writer, editor, world renounced eccentric and, now musician David Lynch does, little description is needed beyond simply mentioning his name. At this point in his career, his unquestionable auteur status has entered his surname the popular consciousness and lexicon as an adjective: Lynchian. And The Big Dream, his second full length release under his own name, embodies everything Lynchian is understood to entail. But while his name might be the largest marketable feature, the work stands on its own, regardless of its author. The Big Dream is an expertly created soundscape, reminiscent largely of Daniel Lanois’ production work (especially on Bob Dylan’s Time Out Of Mind) and of the alluring spookiness of Louisiana Swamp Pop… with a focus on the dark unease that lies beneath the mundane, of course.
Like his best cinematic works, the record’s strength lies in Lynch’s ability to simultaneously establish and undermine the tone simply by referencing an existing piece (which may or may not be obscure, depending on your point of reference). Several times throughout the record, and especially on the lead, title track, Lynch’s thin, high vocals eerily echo the speaking voice of Roky Ericson, the famously institutionalized, schizophrenic martyr for 60s psychedelia. Heavily distorted but never seeming processed or manipulated, he at times speaks, at times chants (it would be hard to call what he does ‘singing’ in the traditional sense) with a hypnotic, ethereal delivery comparable to a snake-charmers flute, lulling the listener into a strange, unnerving calmness. Rootless, as if carried on the wind, (or the backs of spirits), his vocals are instruments themselves; it matters less what he is saying than how it is said (though the apparent simplicity of the lyrics is anything but happenstance).
The true triumph of the album is the music, or rather, the sonic landscape created. Equal parts Daniel Lanois and CC Adcock (though neither had a hand in production), guitar riffs streak through the haze, sluggish through layers of echo and reverb. This is a record that would not exist if it weren’t for post production, and a prime example of how to use such effects to benefit, rather than hinder, the creation of a song.
Self described as originating as “ blues jams, then go sideways from there” the album does have a definite blues feel, from a time when R&B actually stood for rhythm and blues; “Sun Can’t Be Seen No More” being the modern equivalent to an Excello single worthy of Guitar Gable or Slim Harpo. All tracks on the album are originals, save for Bob Dylan’s “Ballad of Hollis Brown.” Lynch claims he covered Nina Simone’s version, yet all I hear is The Stooges’ take on it, with an added overemphasis on every syllable.
While the record still has a few missteps (which may be attributed to personal taste more than anything), musically, it is a far more sound effort that Lynch’s first attempt, Crazy Clown Time. Like his films, the album only stands to grow with continued exposure time, and certainly rivals much that single careered musicians put out.
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