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David Lynch: The Big Dream

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"No, no, no, I don't drink that foreign beer," legendary filmmaker/weirdo David Lynch chortles at the end of the electro-blues vamp "Sun Can't Be Seen No More." This being Lynch, the whole song is sung through a vocal modulator that transmogrifies his pipes into something akin to an asthmatic Donald Duck. Undeniably, Lynch is the preeminent American surrealist, and his films are masterful works of discomforting familiarity, but his music still feels like the work of a novice.

The Big Dream, Lynch's second solo album, is a marked improvement from his disjointed, sloppy Crazy Clown Time, but Lynch almost plays things too safe, relying on the minor variations of the same skittering or washy musical backdrops. The album's best moments, like the dramatic, shoegaze doo-wop of "Cold Wind Blowin'," are also its most sonically evocative. Penultimate track "The Line It Curves" draws brilliantly on its ambiguous chorus built around swelling and contracting train-whistle synths and sputtering guitars.

There aren't exactly egregious missteps here, but the hazy lurch of opener "The Big Dream," tinny blues of "Last Call," and industrial dub of "Wishin' Well" often sound like remixes of a single track. Applause can be given to the effort, if not the execution, of the oozing cover of "The Ballad of Hollis Brown."

For an album devoted to every conceivable version of electronic blues, it's telling that The Big Dream succeeds best as pop. For all his weirdness, Lynch's best work finesses the space between the edges and the center. The beauty and courage built into the sparkling melancholy of closer "Are You Sure" proves Lynch is human after all.

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