Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Oliver!: The Wedding Present - Falling (4 April 1992)

Question for anyone who keeps abreast of these things: when did boxsetting become a thing? Was it this year or in 2016?  I don’t watch much television now, and I don’t have Netflix, Amazon Prime or anything like it.  I never West Winged, Broke Bad or made a date with a Mad Man.  House of Cards to me meant Ian Richardson  (and recent events mean that’s what it’ll probably mean to many others again in future), while if you ask me my opinion of Game of Thrones, I’m likely to say “That’s me playing Snake on my mobile during a long shit”.  I’ve always been more of a dipper inner than a glutton when it comes to watching episodes of a TV series over time - if only the same was true of me round a biscuit tin.  I prefer to keep the intrigue drawn out as something to look forward to rather than devour a series in one sitting.
2017 saw another show enter the pantheon of, “You want it all?  You can have it all!” broadcasting with the return of Twin Peaks after a gap of 26 years.  I didn’t see any of it, just as I only saw snippets of the first iteration.  Whenever I turned over in the 90s to watch any of it, I always seemed to come in at a scary moment which would send me scuttling back to the news ASAP.  The only bit of Twin Peaks that I’ve ever seen was the 1992 prequel movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and I only did that because Mark Kermode asked me to - and I’m glad he did, I thought it was excellent.

On several occasions during his run of shows from November 1991 to April 1992, Peel alluded to certain atmospheric records, usually dance based ones as having “Something of a Twin Peaks influence” while one of his dance picks in December 1991 used one of Twin Peaks’s musical cues as a key sample and under his better known name got a Top 10 hit single out of it.
The Wedding Present recorded Falling, the main theme from Twin Peaks as a B-side to single of the month, Silver Shorts.  On the face of it, this is an ideal match of song and artist.  Lynch’s lyrics could have been copied from a David Gedge notebook given that it starts with a self-plea to be careful and not get emotionally hurt, only for such caution to fly out the window once he sees the object of his desire.  In typical Lynchian style, and a neat bit of underplaying the situation, he notes that while everything seems familiar in the grand scheme of things (the colour of the sky, the movement of the clouds etc) something fundamental has changed - “Are we falling in love?”  And in Lynch’s world that change could prove to be either the salvation of his characters or their downfall.  It’s a truly beautiful song, poised over Angelo Badalamenti’s bass like refrain, which becomes a ringingly bright guitar refrain in the hands of The Wedding Present.
The first version of the song was popularised by Julee Cruise, a collaborator with Angelo Badalamenti.  Lynch and Badalamenti wrote the song with her in mind to record it and she imbues it
with an almost angelic level of fragility - gently soaring into the stratosphere alongside the icily ecstatic synths.  This sense of love and gentleness breaking through chaos, violence and terror is a key theme in several of Lynch’s films.  The next paragraph contains SPOILERS and links to scenes that some viewers may find upsetting.

Blue Velvet (1986) is awash with romance, love and tenderness amidst an ocean of reprehensible acts - indeed some of that love is delivered by the most terrifying character in 80s cinema.  Wild at Heart (1990) features further grotesque characters and moments of unsettling insanity, but at its centre is the loving, tender relationship between Sailor (Nicholas Cage) and Lula (Laura Dern).  Their love and belief in one another is what stops the film being overwhelmed by dark malignancy.  Lynch in these films appears to be on the side of love and tenderness.  The heroes and anti-heroes of both movies get put through hell, but a happy ending is waiting for them, ultimately.  Even in a film where no happy ending is possible like Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me there is still time for moments of tenderness and genuine caring interaction between characters, before the inexorable slide back towards madness.  Having missed all of Lynch’s feature films since Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, apart from The Straight Story (1999), I have no idea whether this motif is prevalent in the likes of Lost Highway (1997), Mulholland Dr. (2001) or Inland Empire (2006).

Julee Cruise’s vocal suggests love being strong enough to rise above the cruelty of everyday existence.  One can imagine it as an ensemble piece sung by The Lady in the RadiatorSandy’s robinsThe Good Witch and the angel in the Red Room.  If Lynch’s work could be said to be a revolving round of dream/nightmare states, joined together like Siamese Twins and allowing him to acknowledge the very best and worst of human behaviour, then Cruise’s version of Falling is the dream state, while The Wedding Present’s is the nightmare state.  After chocking out that instantly recognisable riff, their version proceeds with David Gedge’s vocal barely rising above a murmur and he struggles to be heard above the sustained guitar notes that drape themselves over the choruses like one of Laura Palmer’s malevolent visions.  Around the 4 minute mark, the band go full noise rock, leaving Gedge quietly intoning his surprise at, potentially, falling in love.  The effect is to push all the cruelty, violence and menace in Twin Peaks, and Lynch’s other work to the forefront, while reminding the listener that, even when buried behind a seemingly horrific world, love is never far from the surface.  It’s a very clever inversion of Cruise’s version and both could be held up, by optimists and pessimists alike as representative of Lynch’s worldview.

This will probably be the last post before Monday, so it’s as good a time as any to wish anyone reading this a merry Christmas.  Please could I have DVDs of Lost Highway, Mulholland Dr. and Inland Empire for my gifts this year, please? xxx

Videos courtesy of Andrew077 (Wedding Present) and L Y R I X (Cruise).

Lyrics copyright of David Lynch.

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