With the new series of “Twin Peaks” wandering to its predictably inscrutable conclusion, now might be a good time to revisit the velvety, oddly timeless soundtrack of the original 1990-91 show. This album must be judged not solely on its own merits but on its correspondence to, and enrichment of, the show it is scoring, so it’s impossible to discuss without discussing “Twin Peaks”.
This contextualisation is in turn dependent upon the contextualisation of “Twin Peaks” itself, which was startlingly alien in 1990 (or so I’ve heard). Dropping like a mortar full of Douglas firs, flashing surrealism and lounge-lizard jazz into the staid televisual landscape of “Cheers” and “Full House”, it set to gleefully upending genre conventions. The insertion of the Laura Palmer whodunnit was one of David Lynch’s few concessions to narrative sense, but even that served as something of a trojan horse—as time goes on, it becomes clear that “Twin Peaks” was never really about Laura Palmer, and that she only catalysed the exploration of the people and mythology of the town.
However, like “Scream” for horror, “Twin Peaks” was transgressive because it functioned both as a sardonic parody of its genre—in this case, the soap opera—and a credible example of that genre. The result is one of studiedly, almost unsettlingly deadpan camp. The show’s intermittent bouts of visceral grisliness are forced into greater contrast by its wryly stilted and gaudily excessive interpersonal drama, a large contribution to which is made by the music.
Thus, we make it onto Angelo Badalamenti’s now-famous “Soundtrack from Twin Peaks”. For all their silky lushness, there is a melodrama inherent in Badalamenti’s compositions which neatly underscores the segments of primordially saccharine soap opera the show wades into. Particularly, the hilariously predictable deployment of the glossy climax of “Laura Palmer’s Theme” at any emotional moment imbues the scene with a sense of dry self-deprecation. The soundtrack more broadly slaloms through ethereal dream-pop (“The Nightingale”); swanking, finger-snapping jazz (“Audrey’s Dance”); and spooky, nocturnal ambience (“Night Life in Twin Peaks”).
Irrespective of the grace of much of Badalamenti’s soundtrack even divorced from “Twin Peaks”—in particular, his sumptuous and wistful “Twin Peaks Theme” sears itself into the memory—“Soundtrack from Twin Peaks” functions optimally as an aural travelogue to the town and show. Much of it is utterly indivisible in the public mind from “Twin Peaks” itself, fossilising its status at the crux of the programme. Interestingly, like the show itself, it admirably both functions in a parodic context and as a moving and atmospheric soundtrack in its own right: it has delved so deeply into irony that it seems to have come out the other side. CO
Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXrjMaVoTy0