David Lynch has a new album out this week. It’s the latest creative endeavor in a career that’s been characterized as much by its diversity as its ongoing weirdness — in fact, Lynch has been responsible for so much over the years that it’s hard to keep track of it all, let alone sort the best from the rest. So here’s an overview of his oeuvre, looking at the most significant aspects of his work, and ranking each endeavor from the most compelling to the most forgettable.
Obviously. Ranking them is a post of its own, but suffice it to say that I’d go with Mulholland Drive over Blue Velvet as the pinnacle of the Lynchian celluloid experience, that Lost Highway and Inland Empire are unfairly maligned (especially the former, which is really pretty great), that it’s a shame Alejandro Jodorowsky didn’t make Dune, that Eraserhead is still singularly disconcerting genius, and that Fire Walk With Me really does stink to high heaven.
Also obviously. Its newfound ubiquity has somewhat lessened its impact over the last few years — honestly, when there’s a band called simply Twin Peaks, it’s probably time to stop — but on the whole, it remains a remarkable televisual experience, especially the first season. And remember, it got shown on network television. There’s an argument to be made that the renaissance of TV as a dramatic medium started on a cold, lonely beach in Washington State with a plastic-wrapped dead girl lying under a crazy-big log.
Dark Night of the Soul
Lynch’s best excursion into the world of music remains his 2010 collaboration with Danger Mouse and the late, great Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse — perhaps, without meaning to sound snarky, because it was largely those two who handled the music. Lynch lent his vocals to two tracks (the title track and the gorgeous “Star Eyes (I Can’t Catch It)”), and also provided some excellent photographs for the accompanying book.
A damn fine cup of coffee, etc. etc. It’s pricey, mind you.
Lynch was an artist long before he was a filmmaker, and his paintings still make for fascinating viewing. There was a book of his work doing the rounds a while back, although sadly it’s hard to find these days. In any case, he cites the great Francis Bacon as his biggest inspiration, which makes perfect sense when you look at both his palette and the air of grotesque physicality that permeates both his paintings and his aesthetic in general.
Look, I can’t really rate the quality of Lynch’s furniture — I’m not a design aficionado, and anyway, it’s not like I’ve spent a load of time round at his place. So let’s leave it somewhere in the middle. And at the end of the day, shit, wouldn’t you want a chair designed by David Lynch?
Lynch’s self-designed website was a constant source of fascination and strangeness (who could forget his daily weather reports?). As far as his legacy goes, though, its main source of interest was DumbLand, a series of animated shorts that were originally released exclusively online. They’re… well, they’re weird as hell, really. In their own way, they’re Lynch’s filmmaking at its rawest and most unaffected, and as such contain some fascinating insights into the strange, strange place his subconscious seems to be. But unsurprisingly, they lack the appeal and depth of his more fully realized filmic works.
Catching the Big Fish
Lynch’s passion for transcendental meditation has been well documented, and this book makes for interesting enough reading, especially the insights into the way his meditative practice has fueled his creativity over the year. It’s just a shame it’s TM that he’s so passionate about, considering the fact that you have to spend a small fortune to learn it.
Crazy Clown Time and The Big Dream
For all that they’re somewhat different in sound, these are essentially two sides of a coin, the coin in question being Lynch’s apparent loss of interest in film. As Mark Richardson wrote about The Big Dream yesterday at Pitchfork, “The main appeal of the record is that it’s ‘an album by David Lynch’… without intimate knowledge of Lynch’s aesthetic, place in culture, and oeuvre, the album doesn’t have much to offer.” This is true of both records, sadly.
The Angriest Dog in the World
A cartoon strip that featured the same four panels week in, week out, along with the same introduction, and essentially the same joke. It lasted for nearly a decade. Um.
The Interview Project
Look, this was interesting enough — it just seemed a shame for one of our greatest celluloid visionaries to spend his time shooting something that pretty much anyone with a 5D and a tripod could have made. Please, David Lynch, make another film. A real one.