Two new archival releases reassert the atmospheric majesty of Julee Cruise
You need Three Demos—released last month alongside a reissue of Julee Cruise’s The Voice of Love, from 1993—to get with that trademark bass gurgle. You won’t find its proper form on Love; approximations, at best. That bass gurgle, syncopated, like something from a propelled Cruise through a deep sea of her own charting, an aquarium of the mind with her vocals pushing like the “Stingray” nuclear sub from Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s puppet-happy ‘60s mindset.
And this was an early ‘60s mindset, pushing artificiality on its own brand stamp. By 1993 Twin Peaks was off the TV airwaves, but the Fire Walk With Me film, from ’92, still loomed fresh in Lynchian mindsets the (real) world over.
And David Lynch, adapting to the real world in his own way, made Julee Cruise whatever Julee Cruise became. The crucial juxtaposing, for Lynch, of real and not-real, came at the end of Blue Velvet, back in Mayberry or the equivalent, our heroes and heroines cheering on a regal, mechanical robin, replete with a squirming, not-long-for-this-world flesh-and-carapace black beetle. The “real world” is perfectly fine, you see. Just don’t forget that it’s a Dick and Jane book, and the beetles, along with the worms and the other squirmies, lie under the grass. Waiting.
Lynch lusted after This Mortal Coil’s cover version of Tim Buckley’s “Song To the Siren”—but that proved too expensive to license (and how somebody or somebodies at the publishing company must have kicked their own behinds for several years afterwards). Lynch’s right-hand music man Angelo Badalamenti knew Cruise from a Janis Joplin revue in which the singer, oddly enough, took on the full Janis persona.
Cruise used both Lynch and Badalamenti for her debut album, Floating Into the Night, the title of which sums her up in four words. Lynch alone produced The Voice of Love, and while he didn’t tease out any jagged edges or spiky distortions such as you find in his own music, or his work for Jocelyn Montgomery’s Lux Vivens, from 1998, it’s quite clear that ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in…something. I call it water because I love water and I love the idea of dreams summoning me into a clear, cool, dreamscape, maybe a mermaid or two, at least an arowana for company.
Still, it’s Three Demos that stands out to me. Maybe because of the demo for “Floating,” with its whispered intro. Not spiky, not jagged, not squirmy, but the whispering stands out from a gestalt where nothing is supposed to stand out, or at least not without a big setup, a telegraphing of intentions. Thing are supposed to move slow, and you’re supposed to be able to see the elegance lumbering onto your sweet spot from several miles off.
So that’s probably why the whisper got sanded off. Or should I say buffed off, in the manner of the upscale-est nail salon? It sounded a little too close to true intimacy—the kind that often comes with bad breath and dried sweat and the sun, giver of all life, agonizing your eyeballs. Dry, dry. No. Come back to bed, or stay in it. Put on the CD—it’s slicker than the LP, so you know it’s got better sound. Stick with wetness.