“the pink room” – angelo badalamenti (1992)

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Last night, I finished watching the latest season of Twin Peaks.  For nearly four months, the world settled uncomfortably into David Lynch’s world to see how the show’s beloved characters adjusted and changed since the death of Laura Palmer 25 years earlier.  Lynch, the cast, and Showtime were extremely hush hush about what the return of Twin Peaks would look and feel like.  Expectations for the cult classic were high as no one knew quite what to expect.

I had previously written about the new season for this blog series at the halfway point.  Specifically, I discussed the use of music in the series as a narrative device.  Angelo Badalamenti’s score in the original series was so prevalent that it can be interpreted as a character in of itself.  For the new series, Badalamenti’s score took a backseat to make way for an increased presence of contemporary pop and rock music in the form of bands performing at the Roadhouse.

Music was still an integral part of the storytelling and moodscape, but it took on a new role that was vaguely familiar but completely different.  And that best describes the experience of watching this latest series of Twin Peaks.  The characters, scenery, and situations we all cherished from the original series were still there, but time managed to distort our perception of these things.  Everything seemed so incredibly familiar.  However, our relationships to these things has changed.

Before the new series preimiered, I was admittedly skeptical.  I am very vocal about my dislike for nostalgia and for good reason.  While it is totally fine to enjoy artifacts and documents of the past for their own merit as a representation of that period, it is another thing when culture is stagnated to accommodate old ideas that are long past their prime.

People are absolutely addicted to nostalgia because of the comfort it brings.  The familiar is nice for that reason.  However, when you have endless reboots, sequels, and rehashes of well-established or dated intellectual properties that mimic their predecessor as much as possible, the cultural landscape of artistic media becomes stagnated.  It makes it harder for new ideas to get the attention they deserve.  Instead of these new ideas depicting and representing the present as it is, they fade away or never even materialize.  It is a very regressive state that represses our ability to challenge the limits of our imagination and the need to push society forward culturally and artistically.

When I started the latest season of Twin Peaks, what I didn’t want to see, after 25 years, was more quirky dialogue, melodramatic acting, and constant references to damn good pie.  I wanted something that reflected the maturity and growth that comes with time.  And, fortunately, I got that.

It is funny for me to admit that this last season of Twin Peaks left me with even more questions than before I started watching.  I have never had the experience of watching something and getting less closure as the show continued.  And that is an entirely thrilling concept.  Lynch, since the original Twin Peaks series in the early 1990s, has shaped his film legacy by releasing films that are challenging, open to endless interpretation, and leave you with endless unanswerable questions.  For many, I imagine that causes quite a bit of frustration.  For me, I find it fascinating and a bit funny because I laugh it off that Lynch is playing a joke on everyone to see how far he can get away with.  And when I think that way about a major release that generated a lot of buzz, it gives me a lot of hope for the future of art.  This new Twin Peaks season didn’t give the audience what they wanted or expected and it still managed to be one of the hottest shows of the year.  That is what we need more of to combat the ever-increasing presence of copycat nostalgia cash-ins.

As I mentioned earlier, our relationship to this world had changed.  I find it incredibly brave to take those ideas and situations from 25 years earlier and change their meaning.  I attempted to watch the first two seasons of Twin Peaks back in 2011.  I had four episodes left when I just quit.  I felt satisfied that I didn’t need to continue.  Laura Palmer’s killer was revealed and knowing that the show was cancelled abruptly after season two finished leaving no opportunity to pick things back up for a third season, I didn’t feel invested to finish watching.  The concept of the Black Lodge and Special Agent Dale Cooper’s possession by Bob didn’t mean anything to me other than unfinished and unrealized ideas.

I didn’t even feel the need to watch the 1992 film prequel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.  When the series was cancelled, Lynch felt that he could continue and expand the story through a series of films.  The film was considerably darker than the television series and performed poorly at the box office.  This meant that Lynch couldn’t continue exploring the world of Twin Peaks.

A few years ago, rumors started surfacing that Lynch was trying to get a new season made.  At the time, I felt that it was a useless gesture; a nostalgia trip from a guy who hadn’t made a movie since 2006’s Inland Empire.  I wasn’t excited about a new series when I wanted to Lynch to make a new film.

As time went on, the series return finally saw the greenlight.  Even then, I wasn’t quite on board.  It wasn’t until January of this year that I finally took an interest.  So many friends were buzzing about the show’s return.  And I knew I would watch it too even though I was in denial. So, I watched the first two seasons (finally finishing it this time), watched the film prequel, and even read The Secret History of Twin Peaks by series co-creator Mark Frost to get a deeper understanding of some of the themes.

When the series returned in May, I was ready.  Or, at least I thought I was.  I had no idea what to expect at this point and nothing was made much clearer with each new episode.  However, I loved what I saw.  For one, I was thrilled by this new season was a departure from its earlier form taking on themes and style of a thoroughly modern Lynch.  Secondly, Lynch didn’t give the audience what they wanted and instead downplayed key characters an altogether minimizing once prominent roles. And, finally, I was no closer to understanding the scope of what Twin Peaks had to offer than before.  In other words, this was how you handle the stigma of nostalgia the right way.

Angelo Badalamenti did such an amazing job scoring the new series.  It was subtle early in the return, but gained steam as we neared the finish.  Old scores and themes associated with certain characters and ideas were withheld appropriately.  I remember when rewatching the original series, the music was everywhere and often themes during in episode.  That wasn’t the case in this new series.  As mentioned before, Badalamenti’s music as a character changed over the years making way for new ways to express itself as a narrative device.

The new series had a lot of throwbacks to the 1992 film.  Whole scenes in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me had their meaning changed when viewing this new series; throwing nostalgia out the window and that our old ideas or ways of thinking are not as precious as we thought.

Since many scenes and characters from the film were referenced or connected to the new series, I decided to revisit the film’s soundtrack.  The score for the original series is stellar on its own and contains many of the iconic scores we know and love.  However, I feel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me is Angelo Badalamenti’s strongest contribution to the music of this world.

“The Pink Room” is a heavy, dark bluesy track from the film soundtrack.  The title of the track references a room at the infamous Roadhouse.  There, Laura Palmer meets her drug connections and has sex with strange friend.  She is joined with her friend Ronette Pulaski.  This scene is important because it serves as a key connection between Laura Palmer’s descent and the events following her death.  The scene itself is also unnerving as we see Palmer gyrate and grind with the men who would be involved with her rape and murder.  Light flash and drugs are plenty as the score enhances the seedy and depraved mood of the scene in an already dark film.

The finale of the return of Twin Peaks left a lot of questions unanswered and opened the doors for further exploration of the increasingly obscured world of Lynch’s vision.  I don’t know if another season will be made.  Part of me doubts it and a bigger part of me actually doesn’t want it.  I don’t want answers.  I was left with questions at the end of season two and with even more questions at the end of this latest season.  For me, it has become clear that the world of Twin Peaks is not something we are meant to understand.  Instead, all we can do is sit back and observe and let the characters, story, and especially the music take us on a journey.

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“she’s gone away” – nine inch nails (2016)

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As fans are approaching the halfway point of Showtime’s limited series run of the latest iteration of Twin Peaks, everyone is left in the dark about what exactly is going on.  The two previous seasons that aired over 25 years ago dabbled in the supernatural and was strange and quirky even by today’s broadcast programming standards.  Since then, now on premium subscription cable and with an increasingly esoteric filmography under his belt, David Lynch has crafted something out of the ashes of an old project.

As weird as the original seasons of Twin Peaks were, the show was fairly innocuous.  While it wasn’t, and still isn’t, the most accessible show in attracting viewers, it had enough character to set itself apart from typical television at that time.  The world was clamoring to know who killed Laura Palmer.  When the killer was revealed halfway through season two and the show changed narrative to focus on a conflict between Special Agent Dale Cooper and a former partner, viewership dropped and increasingly poor ratings tanked the show before it could wrap up loose ends.

After the show was cancelled, Lynch attempted to get the world of Twin Peaks alive.  The theatrical release of the 1992 prequel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me was the first of a planned series of films that expanded the story of Twin Peaks.  The film was a commercial failure and it tanked any future plans to continue the story.

It took to attempts to watch the entirety of the original series.  In 2011, I tried the first time.  I thoroughly enjoyed the first season, but I was losing interest as the second season continued.  I actually stopped watching after the Josie met her fate.  It just seemed so ridiculous to me that I wasn’t compelled to finish.  While I really enjoyed the earlier episodes, I didn’t see a point in finishing.  I knew the series ended prematurely and there would be no closure beyond finding out Laura Palmer’s killer.

Lynch had a couple of false starts in launching a revival.  However, when the most recent confirmation of a revival occurred and scenes were getting shot, I thought Well, I guess I have to get caught back up.  I started the series over again earlier this year, a full six years after the first attempt to finish, and made it all the way to the mysterious cliff hanger at the end of season two.  I also watched Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me in preparation.  Pressure was on to get up to speed!

As part of catching up prior to the new episodes airing was reading the compendium The Secret History of Twin Peaks published by the show’s co-creator Mark Frost.  The book was a compiled dossier of memos, letters, newspaper clippings, and other source material tracking strange phenomenon in the area of Twin Peaks as far back as the Lewis and Clark expedition all the way through the disappearance of Special Agent Dale Cooper.  While the book offered some cool insight into the area’s connection to the supernatural, it also tied up some loose ends between the original series and the revival as the fate and development of key figures were discussed.

After 30 episodes, a feature-length film, and a book, I was ready.  I felt so prepared for what was coming and was excited to see what Lynch would do with this world after so long.  Eight episodes in, I don’t think anyone was prepared for what was coming.  And, for that, I feel thankful.  Nostalgia governs our culture now as intellectual properties are constantly rehashed and rebooted.  I expected, like many, that we would see all of our old friends and hear tongue-in-cheek references to great pie and damn fine coffee.  Instead, the revival reflected a more artistically mature Lynch who left the world of the original series behind and incorporated stylistic elements of his later works such as Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire.  For that, I’m glad because nostalgia is the most tiring form of capitalism.

We’re only halfway through at this point.  No one really knows what’s going on and no one will really start connecting the dots until Lynch wants us to.  That could happen in the last episode, or not at all.  We’re just going along for the ride.  I even find humor in the set up as I cynically think that Lynch is just playing a practical joke on his viewers.  Obviously, that isn’t the case.  But, it helps me not think too hard about what’s going on and just observe.

Music has always been a key component of the original series.  Angelo Badalamenti’s beautiful score was featured throughout the first two series and added context to scenes and characters.  In the revival, his score isn’t driving scenes as prominently as it did before. In fact, most of the time, his score isn’t featured at all.  Badalamenti’s score was, in itself, a character of the original series.  However, things change.

While Badalamenti’s score is less prominent in the revival, music is still very important in these newer episodes.  In most of the episodes, a band is performing at the Roadhouse (or Bang Bang Bar) usually over the ending credits.  Julee Cruise performed at the very same bar sparingly in the originals series, but band performances weren’t central to the narrative until the revival.  In all but one episode, bands in the revival include Chromatics, the Cactus Blossoms, Au Revoir Simone, Trouble, Sharon Van Etten, and most recently, Nine Inch Nails.  Lynch is a fan of all these groups.  However, with the revival, things have changed and have also drastically distanced themselves from the tone of the original series.  Music was integral to the show before and it still is, but in a vastly different way.

In the most recent episode, one that has been dubbed as the strangest one to date, featured Nine Inch Nails.  Funnily enough, this was the only group featured thus far that got an introduction and was cleverly incorrectly billed as “The Nine Inch Nails.”  Also, this performance was in the middle of the episode as opposed to the end over the credits.

The band performed “She’s Gone Away” from their most recent EP released in December 2016 called Not the Actual Events.  The track is a hard-hitting industrial rock song that is dark and serves as the perfect segue to the explosive sequence of images and modern ensemble music that follows before ultimately settling into the quiet bucolic setting of the following dessert scenes.  Even the music choice is interesting because it does contract with the styles of the musicians that were featured previously.  It was Lynch setting us up for the show’s darkest turn to date.  This is a Lynch soundtrack choice that easily mirrors the musical direction of earlier works like Lost Highway.

On its own, “She’s Gone Away” is an excellent track. Nine Inch Nails has been one of those bands that has consistently released good material.  While some albums and songs are better than others, they have never released a bad song.

After eight episodes, so much yet so little has occurred in the Twin Peaks revival.  It is hard to imagine how everything is going to tie together over the proceeding ten episodes.  I personally have doubts about any closure at the end.  I did recently learn that a follow-up to Mark Frost’s The Secret History of Twin Peaks is being released in October.  Titled The Final Dossier, this book seems to be a compendium that provides clarification to events and sequences during the revival episodes, but perhaps after as well.  We shall see.  I am eager to see how things turn out and how Lynch crafts a story with a distinct flare that sheds all traces of nostalgia.  Either way, I know that there will still be damn fine music.