The soundtrack to one of television’s most notorious seasons reappears out of The Black Lodge.
Sacred Bones, 2013
4.6 / 10
I remember watching The Empire Strikes Back as a kid and having one singular moment irreversibly burned into my brain. The moment wasn’t Vader revealing himself to his son; it wasn’t seeing Han Solo encased in carbonite; it was when the Millenium Falcon navigated through a dangerous asteroid field. The scene still sticks out today, but it’s not because it was shot particularly well (though it was) or that it was a pivotal, cathartic moment in the movie. It was all because of John Williams’ score. That scene would not work without Williams’ rolling crescendos, the flittering flutes, or the trumpets on fire. A decade later, Twin Peaks would find itself in similar territory: the television show was enhanced by the musical experience, and the musical experience was enhanced by memories of the television show.
Twin Peaks holds a bizarre place in pop culture history, and it’s primarily remembered for two reasons: how quickly it caught the nation’s attention, and how quickly it fell out of that spotlight. When it first appeared in 1990, it was a complete enigma — it was a relatively melodramatic murder/mystery that seemed to slide in and out of a surrealist nightmare. On Twin Peaks the plot wasn’t as important as the characters, and the characters weren’t as important as the mood and atmosphere. Angelo Badalamenti (a longtime Lynch collaborator) composed a score that was jazzy, somber, and slightly cheesy, and it’s as much a part of the television as the television show is part of the music. Much like the Star Wars scores, Badalemnti’s music can’t be removed from its original context, and it’s all the better for it. The first seasons’ soundtrack is great, and recommended for anyone who not only enjoys Twin Peaks, but for anyone who enjoys film scores period.
But that was the first season, and if you know anything about Twin Peaks, it’s probably disappointment of the second, and final season. When the show returned for its second season, it didn’t quite know what to do: the audience demanded that certain plot-lines be wrapped up and certain mysteries become solved, and that really wasn’t the point of Twin Peaks (or what made it good) in the first place. As goes the television show, so goes the show’s score. Badalamenti’s scoring for the second season is largely forgettable. There’s a wealth of material compared to season one, but that’s primarily because season two was more than twice as long as its predecessor. Much like the television show, though, the score was at its best when it kept to its season one roots and themes.
Twin Peaks: Season Two Music and More originally surfaced on CD in 2007, but it quickly became unavailable. Much like the cult status of the television show, people would talk about Season Two Music and More in hushed tones in dark alleyways. It just wasn’t available. Finding it online wasn’t easy, and if you wanted it, you’d have to fork up $60+ dollars if and when a copy showed up on eBay. Even more strange was that Badalamenti soundtracks for season one and the follow-up movie, Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me were still readily available. In September or 2013, the record label Sacred Bones reported that they had “unearthed” a select number of Twin Peaks: Season Two Music and More. The score is on sale once again, but it’s unclear how many copies were “unearthed” or how long they will be available. Sacred Bones has made the soundtrack available digitally, so the music will probably never vanish off the face of the earth like it once did, but given the nature of Twin Peaks, who knows? Will it vanish into the Black Lodge? Hide in the woods? Fake its own death in a burning lumber mill?
The actual content of Twin Peaks: Season Two Music and More is pretty mediocre. Twin Peaks walked a fine line between eye-rolling cheesiness and heartfelt homage, and there are many times when Badalamenti’s score dips into pretty boring retreads. While there are 22 tracks here, most of them are pretty forgettable jazz/snare standards that would work well in an old, faceless film from the 1980’s or a nearly broken, low-budget video game (yes, like Deadly Premonition). It sounds an awful lot like another television’s score that wants to sound a lot like Twin Peaks.
The best moments on this soundtrack are those that feel the most fully-formed. Many of these songs stay around for less than 2 minutes, but the longer sketches are often the most satisfying. “Josie and Truman” hits the mark perfectly, nailing the familiar, but mysterious, sound that was often evoked on season one’s soundtrack. “Audrey” takes the normal score’s sound, but it gives it an ominous undercurrent that is pretty unsettling. I have to imagine that many people will seek Twin Peaks: Season Two Music and More solely for “Just You”, the song that James, Maddy, and Donna sing together in the living room. I find it nightmarish,, but I know plenty of people like it, so yeah, it’s here if you’re into that creepy, cheesy, 1950’s throwback.
Other songs find Badalamenti out of Twin Peaks’ normal sound palette with varying levels of success and failure. “Blue Frank”, for example, is more readily dark and paranoid than anything else here, and it’s memorable because of that – it doesn’t sound like another retread or half-hearted attempt to be jazzy and slightly ethereal. On the other hand, the score hits rock bottom with “Drug Deal Blues”, a song so boring and bad, I have to imagine that it was written for the ending credits to an instructional video teaching truck drivers how to operate 18-wheelers. And not everything from season two is even included on this soundtrack. There’s a really nice moment that the Twin Peaks theme makes a reprise in an acoustic rendition (when Benjamin Horne is watching the old film-reel from his childhood), but it’s conspicuously absent here.
Chances are, if you came to this review to decide whether or not you should buy Twin Peaks: Season Two Music and More, you already know your answer. I could tell you over and over that this score is a disappointment, and you’d still get it anyways. Wanna know how I know? Because you’re just like me; I watched season two after being told countless times to stay away from it. And if you’re like me, you’ll enjoy this soundtrack anyways, warts and all. When the season two score is bad, it’s bad for a few minutes – when the television show was bad, James drove around in the country and cuckolded a rich dude (OR DID HE?!?!) for what felt like weeks and weeks. The bottom line is, if you’ve made your way through the first season’s soundtrack, and the soundtrack for Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, and you still want more, go ahead and pick this up. You probably won’t like all of it, but you’ll love what it represents.
“Josie and Truman”