Twin Peaks fever is burning high this month, so Michael Dwyer has unsleeved the soundtracks for David Lynch’s seminal television series and the follow-up feature film. Composed by Angelo Badalamenti (who also scored Lynch’s Blue Velvet, Wild At Heart, Lost Highway, The Straight Story and Mulholland Drive), the hauntingly beautiful scores for Music From Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me are best experienced on vinyl, and they’re available right now via Warner.
“Twanggg … doo-dunggg … tee-wanggg … doo-dunggg.” You know the feeling, right? It’s lovely but anxious, orchestral but fake, lush as a woolly jumper but weirdly chilling at the same. It’s the theme to Twin Peaks, and with or without Julee Cruise’s ethereal vocal, it’s every bit as evocative of the early 1990s as Nirvana and the Gulf War.
David Lynch’s surreal soap opera is back, of course, as promised by dead heroine Laura Palmer in a final episode dream sequence 25 years ago. The music on these two albums has gone underground in that time, but like the themes to Jaws and The Twilight Zone, it’s continued to lurk as shorthand for anything that is unsettling or inexplicable in the everyday melodrama of life.
There’s much more to love about Angelo Badalamenti’s Grammy-winning soundtrack album, which hit the Australian Top 10 all those years ago. The composer’s recurring trick is best illustrated by Laura Palmer’s Theme, which manages to flip from suffocating synthesised dread to the orgasmic ecstasy of Clayderman-esque piano rapture and back again.
Then there’s the finger-clicking jazz-schmaltz thread of Audrey’s Dance and Freshly Squeezed: all vibraphone shimmer and horns mewling like lusty cats. To Twin Peaks tragics, it’s nagging nightmares of red velvet curtains and that strange little man talking backwards. To the rest of us, it’s like looking through a kaleidoscope after too many martinis.
The warpo West Side Story vibe spills over to side two, but the finger-clicks are out of sync now with an agitated drummer trying his best to scramble the downward spiral of The Bookhouse Boys. The jazz and atmos melt together in Night Life In Twin Peaks, the synths rising up like phantoms while an agitated flute does its best to pretend there’s nothing to see in the fog.
It all adds up to that rarest of things in these days of music-as-product-placement: a bespoke soundscape that’s indivisible from the series it scores. The original vocal version of the theme, the ARIA chart-topping Falling, is one of three tracks flown in from Cruise’s album Floating Into the Night, with Lynch’s own indecipherable lyrics swimming in a black sea of reverb.
The big-screen companion to the TV series, the fractured 1992 prequel Fire Walk With Me, copped some brickbats on its original release but the score is a suitably cinematic advance on the telly series. The Theme as such is less iconic and more amorphous, chimneys of synth fogging up the landscape as Jim Haynes’ muted trumpet lays down some classic noir.
Cold synths, cool brass, vibes and creeping bass lines keep the mood palette in the same vaguely dangerous ballpark but the movie soundtrack is a more straight-up and classically sophisticated development after the unnerving juxtapositions of Badalamanti’s TV score.
The Pine Float is Mancini-esque cool jazz and Sycamore Trees, with its astonishing vocal by jazz singer “Little” Jimmy Scott, twists some familiar Twin Peaks cadences into a tragic torch song Billie Holiday might have sung at the Downbeat Club in the ’40s. The composer sings a couple himself – or at least speaks and shouts and mutters Lynch’s lyrics like Travis Bickle on a Bukowski jag – and Cruise returns in her trademark floating bubble of anti-Disney matter for Questions In A World of Blue.
There’s heightened menace in The Pink Room and the sweetest cut of all in the languid piano-guitar duet, Best Friends. And then there’s a Montage, in the penultimate grooves, resetting some of the ’50s diner twang and kitschy concert piano motifs from the original TV series.
It culminates in that crushingly familiar tinkle of Laura Palmer’s Theme, brilliantly wedded by some spooky atmospheric osmosis to the notes we’ve waited too long to hear. “Twanggg … doo-dunggg … tee-wanggg … doo dunggg…” Don’t think you’ve heard the last of them yet.