Angelo Badalamenti - Twin Peaks: Season Two Music And More
Mention the words Twin Peaks and for most, the first thing that comes to mind (other than, perhaps, some cherry pie and damn fine coffee) would be those first few twanging notes of Angelo Badalamenti's theme tune. David Lynch always regarded the aural aspect of his show with as much importance as the visuals, and turned again to long-time collaborator Badalamenti to provide the score. A soundtrack CD containing the theme tune (in instrumental and vocal versions) along with nine other tracks of Badalamenti's trademark sonic conglomeration of doo wop/rock and roll, orchestral, and ambient soundscapes, showcased in the series to great effect, was released in 1990 at the height of Peaksmania. At the time, many of the Peaks homages on other television series were complete with Badalamenti-style jazzy backing music.Since then countless artists have emulated and covered the unforgettable themes, often in tribute videos set in knock-offs of the series' iconic Red Room. Now, just seventeen years after the show first aired on American TV, Lynch and Badalamenti have issued a second volume of tunes to coincide with the release of the complete series, The Gold Box Edition, on Region 1 DVD.
What's presented on this disc is a total of 22 tracks, bookended by versions of the famous "Love Theme". The majority of them original cues used in the second season of the show. Plenty of the fan favourites are present and correct - and so they should be as Badalamenti asked for opinions on which tracks to include in this compilation on his own MySpace page. Upon listening to the disc all the way through, anybody with more than a passing interest in the show will no doubt recognise several of the songs. One of the many unique things about Peaks was that, unlike most television series, each episode was not individually scored. Badalamenti instead composed a library of unique cues, of different moods and tempos, and left the placement of the music to the sound editors, which resulted in many of the same themes being re-used wherever appropriate. This decision was a fitting one. Think of the way many films with an orchestral accompaniment repeat the same motifs for recurring characters, events or places. Here we have the same thing - but only to greater effect, spread out over the course of the whole season.
There are, too, some songs that were only used once, like "Hayward Boogie", a jaunty piece of solo piano, as played by a young Alicia Witt (Gersten Hayward) over the end credits of the second season's opening episode, and the only vocal song present, "Just You", a delicately-picked guitar ballad sung by James Marshall (James Hurley), with backing vocals from Lara Flynn Boyle (Donna Hayward) and Sheryl Lee (Laura Palmer/Maddy Ferguson). Perhaps the most infamous piece of Peaks music, "Just You" was equally loved and loathed for Marshall's falsetto voice - though, to his credit, he revealed in an interview that his voice was artificially pitchshifted so as to be in the same key as the backing track, so we can't lay the blame entirely on him! (In fact, Marshall has since pursued a musical career and has an EP for sale on his website, james-marshall.net).
In the opinion of this writer, "Just You" is one of the most evocative of all the tracks on the disc, and the vocals, as helium-tinged as they may be, are the perfect otherworldly accompaniment to Badalamenti's reverb-drenched guitar. Another favourite is "Hook Rug Dance", a glorious waltz soundtracking one of the most tender and innocent moments of the series, Ben and Jerry Horne's childhood memories of their babysitter dancing in the dark with a flashlight. Also of particular note, and partially fulfilling the 'And More' subtitle of the album (along with "I'm Hurt Bad" which was used to great effect in the pilot episode - it's the song Bobby Briggs plays in the Double R Diner as he leaves), is a song that was conspicuous by its absence from the soundtrack CD of the prequel movie, "Fire Walk With Me", the trippy, droning, trance-like number "Blue Frank" (which, one would hope, is named after Dennis Hopper's character in Blue Velvet). Another high point, and possibly the most heartbreaking moment on display here, is the tearful saxophone-led epic "Half Heart".
Much like the town of Twin Peaks itself, which the series revealed to be multi-faceted, there are many textures and moods contained within this disc, from the emotive strings of "Shelly" and "Audrey's Prayer", the 50s-diner (or should that be Double R?) jukebox sounds of the aforementioned "Just You" / "Hook Rug Dance" and "High School Swing", which swings like a Sam Cooke song as played by The Shadows; the finger-clicking jazz of "Cop Beat" and "Audrey", guitar workouts like "Drug Deal Blues" and "Night Bells", to probably the most stereotypically 'Lynchian' of all the material, the dissonant ambient jams of "Laura's Dark Boogie" and the nine-minute penultimate song, the desolate and unsettling soundtrack to Agent Dale Cooper's entrance into the Black Lodge in the final episode, appropriately titled "Dark Mood Woods/The Red Room".
The only criticism I could find here is the omission of a wistful acoustic version of the "Twin Peaks Theme" (heard in the second season a few times, but most notably when a depressed Ben Horne is watching old home movies of the opening of The Great Northern Hotel), which would have made a perfect opening track. Seeing as how there isn't any interpretation at all of that iconic theme present, this is a gross oversight. It certainly wasn't due to time constraints, as the disc runs to 71 minutes - plenty more time for the theme and other music. I would have preferred the inclusion of the acoustic theme tune to that of the throwaway "Barbershop" which is, as you might expect from the title, some a capella barbershop harmonies, which were present in the show only as a quick audio-visual gag in the background of one scene.
It's difficult to talk about this disc without mentioning about the programme it's intended to accompany - as it should be with specifically composed soundtrack material. You can't help but imagine the town of Twin Peaks - the good and the evil and all in between - when listening. I have no doubt that the material would work almost as well to the ears of somebody who has never seen the show, but, in all honesty, what would be the point of that? Essential listening for Peaks fans - but anybody in search of beautiful music to stimulate the heart and soul will find plenty to enjoy here.