TERRY GROSS, HOST:
David Lynch, who directed "Eraserhead" and "Blue Velvet," has released his first solo album. Our rock critic, Ken Tucker will review it after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GROSS: Director David Lynch has always been very involved with the music that accompanies his films and TV shows, collaborating most notably, with Angelo Badalamenti in "Twin Peaks." Now Lynch has released his first solo album called "Crazy Clown Time," and rock critic Ken Tucker says it's a strange trip that ends up making a lot of sense.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PINKY'S DREAM")
KAREN O: (Singing) Please pinky watch the road, please pinky watch the road. Please pinky watch the road, please pinky watch the road.
KEN TUCKER: David Lynch commences "Crazy Clown Time" with "Pinky's Dream," featuring a vocal by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O and summoning up, as the song title suggests, a dreamy atmosphere. With Karen O's pretty voice and the galloping rock beat, it's as though Lynch is trying to ease us into his album, ushering us into a welcoming waiting room before the real operation, when the scalpel comes out.
(SOUNDBITE OF "SO GLAD")
DAVID LYNCH: (Singing) So glad you're gone. I'm so glad you're gone. Free, free in my house. Free, free in my truck. Free, free on the street. Free, free at last.
TUCKER: David Lynch's voice rises up from the mist created by his own guitar and the drums and bass of engineer Dean Hurley on that song "So Glad." It's the voice of a man who's talking to his wife, who's gone. Where? Who knows? Maybe the narrator does, but he's not telling. What he is telling us is that he's so glad the, quoteunquote, "ball and chain" is gone, that he feels free in his house, in his truck, on the street. Please don't come back, he sings. Even if there's a suggestion that this guy may be a lot more upset than he's letting on - that maybe she left him, glad to get away from this unhappy man - the song also carries one of the themes of this album, that isolation can bring freedom. A freedom of happiness, or a freedom to pursue more morose obsessions.
There's a song on the album, Lynch is tapping into a rock 'n' roll version of the blues, bending reverberating notes on his guitar. He's said that some of his inspirations here include Elvis Presley, The Platters, The Fleetwoods and The Everly Brothers. He said to The New York Times, it just drives me crazy just to say the names. And so, at other times, that craziness is inserted into the mouth of a character who can barely contain it.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CRAZY CLOWN TIME")
LYNCH: (Singing) Molly had her ripped shirt. Molly had her ripped shirt. Suzy, she ripped her shirt off completely. Oh, Molly had her ripped shirt. Oh, Molly had her ripped shirt. Suzy, she ripped her shirt off completely.
TUCKER: That's the title song "Crazy Clown Time," Lynch tries out various voices here, partly to disguise the lack of a conventional singing voice, but more to inhabit a variety of personalities. In the case of "Crazy Clown Time," Lynch sings in a high, querulous tone, the sound of a man telling you about a vivid, hallucinatory, low-down tableau he witnessed: a bunch of crazies downing beers, jumping around so high, and one girl, Susie, stripping off her shirt, a vision emblazoned on the thrilled narrator's mind. The music may seem ominous, but it's not his nightmare - it's in every sense his dream. It's the story of a lonely man's pleasure, as is this song, "These are My Friends." It's almost like an eccentric's version of a William Carlos Williams poem, a list of simple things: a table painted red, a bed, a truck, a stove.
The pay-off: Oh, he's also got a prescription to keep the hounds at bay. You get the feeling Robert Johnson is holding the leash on the hounds.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THESE ARE MY FRIENDS")
LYNCH: (Singing) I've got a truck and a single bed. Got a stove, got a table painted red. Got some beer, oh, yeah, and a barbecue. Got two good ears, and an eye on you. Sally's got a blue bird. Minnie's got a dog. Betty's got a yellow basket. Inside she's got a frog. These are my friends, ones I see each day. I've got a prescription for our problems, keep the hounds at bay.
TUCKER: In his liner notes, Lynch asserts that another song here, "Good Day Today," is about, quote, "being sick of negativity." I do think that Lynch, cheerfully productive, a dedicated student of Transcendental Meditation, is an artist for whom the creation of art is a way of holding negativity at bay, even if the roiling undercurrents of his work frequently grapple with emotions and situations that most of us would consider negative, if not outright upsetting or weird. Ah, but the creation of them, that's where his pleasure comes from - and, if you get on his wavelength, your pleasure as well.
GROSS: Ken Tucker is editor-at-large for Entertainment Weekly. He reviewed "Crazy Clown Time," director David Lynch's first solo album. Coming up: two different approaches to roasting a turkey from two experts on the chemistry of cooking. This is FRESH AIR.