Listen to the Sounds: The Music of the Return Parts 9-15

Welcome back, after a two weeks much needed hiatus, to Listening Post Alpha! We now know, thanks to some interviews with David Lynch and his collaborators, that Lynch hand picked each song that appears in Twin Peaks Season 3. Just as with the first article, I will only be including songs where David Lynch had no direct influence on the production or creation of the songs, the exceptions being “The World Spins and “Just You” which first appear in the Original Run.

Part 9 returns us to the world of Twin Peaks and its music, and in this part we are treated to three instrumental songs.  First off, with America the Beautiful. A fitting song for Cooper to imagine in his head, which is of course, how the scene comes across. Audrey-red heels and an American flag. I’d be hearing America the Beautiful too, if I were Coop. In addition, his particular dedication to the country as a member of its law enforcement makes this song seem applicable. Next up is a double header at the Roadhouse featuring Human by Hudson Mohawke and A Violent Yet Flammable World by Au Revoir Simone

Human is a weird conglomeration of noises to create a genre that is pseudo electronic and more organic that serves as the backdrop to one of the Roadhouse scenes. It is interesting to listen to, but doesn’t provide much more by way of substance.

A Violent Yet Flammable World plays during the discussion between rash girl and the daughter of Tina. Lovely. It’s another soft electronic piece whose lyrics offer some insight.

Tonight I sleep to dream

Of a place that’s calling me

It is always just a dream

Still I cannot forget what I have seen

The crowd’s hard to believe

At their faces I’m looking

But your feet I’m following

In soft steps on a path the way you lead

I don’t want to lose myself

It’s a whisper

It’s a funny thing

We fold like icicles on paper shelves

It’s a pity to appear this way

You’re flying when your foreign eyes

Trace the heights of the city

Alive sacred and sounding

To appear this way

From across and beyond, oh far beyond

They focus of dreams, paraphrase a line of Hamlet and evoke some imagery that reminds me literally of Cooper’s descent into New York, and metaphorically the viewers descent into the world of Twin Peaks. Additionally, it seems to prod at Dale’s gradual return to the World through his Dougie persona. Where everything is too much and he’s the quiet eye of the storm.

Hold, hold, hold on

I swear I saw it somewhere

Waving, wading, one, two, three, above the wakes that follow

Hold, hold, hold on

I swear I saw it somewhere

Waving, wading, one, two, three, above the wakes that follow

This, to me, is losing the last threads of a dream or idea upon waking, which is significant for Dale Cooper, as well as reminiscent of the concept that David Lynch talks about “When the Thing is in the air and you catch the Thing”.

Another set of instrumental pieces appears in Part 10: Charmaine by Manatovani (which also appears in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and his Orchestra, and Slow Dreams by Johnny Jewel. Charmaine is the beautiful and charming tune set to the violence and discord of Richard’s attack on his Grandmother and Uncle. It aids in unsettling the viewer during the difficult sequence, painting a serene mood in contrast to the brutality of the scene, making it even worse than it might be were the music absent. The inclusion of this song at that moment underscores the feeling that awful things are covered up in society by what is fashionable. A decisive musical choice, it’s another instance where the music serves to enhance the power of the scene. Even those things which seem the most perfect are the most decrepit and rotten inside

Slow Dreams is as haunting and moody as the previous Johnny Jewel contributions. It fits perfectly with the tone of a Twin Peaks night – contemplative, a bit sad, light but also dark and above all, dreamy. This plays when Dale and Janey-E lay together in bed post-coitus.

Additionally, we have the exquisite pleasure of hearing the Late Harry Dean Stanton sing and perform Red River Valley. The song is traditional, a Cowboy song, in fitting with the image I have of Harry Dean and its lyrics have always been poignant. When applied to Twin Peaks, it doesn’t take much to see some connections.

From this valley they say you are leaving

We shall miss your bright eyes and sweet smile

For you take with you all of the sunshine

That has brightened our pathway a while

Then come sit by my side if you love me

Do not hasten to bid me adieu

Just remember the Red River Valley

And the cowboy that’s loved you so true

For a long time, my darlin’, I’ve waited

For the sweet words you never would say

Now at last all my fond hopes have vanished

For they say that you’re going away

Then come sit by my side if you love me

Do not hasten to bid me adieu

Just remember the Red River Valley

And the cowboy that’s loved you so true

I think that any one significant player in Twin Peaks would probably be thinking of Laura Palmer. Not Carl Rodd, perhaps, but the allusion remains. If anything, it was simply included as an excuse to have Harry Dean perform and for that I’m not sorry.

Rebekah-Del-Rio at the RoadhouseThe Roadhouse piece is the dual language No Stars by Rebekah del Rio, who also did a song featured in Mulholland Drive. (The video link I included isn’t an official video but it is certainly interesting…)While this isn’t my favourite song of the bunch by any means, it does carry particular weight and significance to the show in its physical performance as well as the lyrics. It has been suggested that this might be one of the most significant song choices, but I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

My dream is to go

To that place

You know the one

Where it all began

On a starry night

On a starry night

When it all began

For us, for Cooper, whomever it might be, this journey has certainly taken us, in dreams, back to the place where it began – Twin Peaks.

Under the starry night

Long ago

But now it’s a dream

The memory dissolves away into a dream and there are, as the song goes “No Stars” anymore. Moody, slow and sweet, No Stars manages to lull the senses of the viewers almost like falling peacefully into the bliss of a dream ourselves.

The next Part, 11, features an amiable at best cover of Viva Las Vegas from Shawn Colvin and another round of the Threnody.

Viva Las Vegas turns out to have a lot of important lyrical beats. The city is “Gonna set my soul on fire”. The singer isn’t going to “Sleep a minute away” because there’s too much to do. “A fortune [is] won and lost on every deal, All you need’s a strong heart and a nerve of steel,”, just like Cooper tried, and failed. He definitely and won and lost in equal share.  “And your one armbandits crashin’, All those hopes down the drain”. If that one isn’t obvious, I don’t know what is. “If you see it once, You’ll never be the same again.”

Are we sure Prestley wrote this about Las Vegas? Maybe the King is still alive and just wandered into the Red Room.

I’m gonna keep on the run

I’m gonna have me some fun

If it costs me my very last dime

If I wind up broke up well

I’ll always remember that I had a swingin’ time

I’m gonna give it ev’rything I’ve got

Lady luck please let the dice stay hot

Let me shout a seven with ev’ry shot

Viva Las Vegas, viva Las Vegas,

Viva, viva Las Vegas

Another Cooper “I can do this” song. I’ve long wondered if Vegas and everything that happened in it was meant to closely mirror what other things happened/were yet to happen and I this certainly give a greater meaning to the inclusion of the story line. Coop was rolling a lot of sevens before the end time, and he most definitely gave it his all.

Stars and Stripes Forever makes its return appearance in Part 12 once again as Jacoby’s Dr. Amp Theme song. I’ll forever associate this song with political vodcasts from now on. A fitting tune for a revved up activist!

Chromatics at the roadhouse

The Roadhouse this night features the Chromatics again, this time playing Saturday. The version featured on the show is instrumental, but there is also a vocals version, the lyrics to which features the singer essentially telling their romantic partner that they “can’t make it until Saturday”. It’s another mood setter, and as the lyrics didn’t feature in the version used, I won’t spend as much time on it, save to say it’s just as beautiful. The following lyrics, however, might be of interest.

Tell me

Someone is stealing you at night


Tell me that you’ll be alright

Don’t you know

I’ve got a bad feeling about Saturday

Lately it’s true

“Stealing at night” might be a euphemism and it might not. Either way, there’s a certain Twin Peaks-ish resonance with those words that send a chill through me every time. A precognition of something going terribly, horribly wrong is not out of character for this show.

The Swan Lake Ballet Suite, Op. 20 III, better known as Dance of the Swans makes its terrifying appearance during Part 13’s surreal Jungle Gym sequence. While Sonny Jim runs around in the same pattern, swinging endlessly through the jungle gym, this classical Tchaikovsky piece plays ominously on a loop. And not even the whole song. Just the vaguely sinister first theme and sequence. Over and over. If Sonny Jim wasn’t already mildly off at that point, I’d have suggested that the music was there for a reason. Why this particular choice was made, I can’t speak to. The mood it evokes is certainly particular, and that may have been the only choice in its inclusion. The scene to which this music is set from Swan Lake itself isn’t a particularly happy one to be sure, so its location in what should for all intents and purposes be a happy moment is all the more unsettling.

13-James-Backup-SingersNext up on the roster is the song we all love to hate, or just plain hate. Just You performed by James Marshall. We all know that James’ song is a herald of doom; in the part that follows, Sarah Palmer (or what is residing within her, whatever you believe that to be) kills a man violently. James’ song is a literal Omen. If you ever hear it without intentionally meaning to, there’s no hope for you. It’s a nice nod to the original, whether you believe it was ‘trolling’ or simple indulgence. It is also another hint on the way that the characters, no matter their 25 year time displacement from when we last saw them, have yet to truly move on.

Lissie in the roadhouse

Part 14 features the song, Wild West by Lissie at the Roadhouse, a fun pop/country song that I didn’t expect to like as much as I do, considering that I tend to shun country absolutely.  The music video features a family, in particular their children (all boys) filming themselves at random. It’s kind of adorable. As strange as it may seem, this song, to me, is a Dale Cooper song at heart, about where he’s been, where he’s going, and what he hopes to achieve.

Are you out there

To take away my fear?

I haven’t lost my hope

Even though I am so far from my home

I’m not sure who Cooper would be talking to in this scenario, but I’m not sure that’s important. Dale is obviously afraid, and yet also hopeful and we already know that he is “Far Away”.

I’ve been living my life on the edge

Slip and fall if I take one more step

There’s safety in numbers, I guess

But I’m going rogue in the wild, wild west

This is fairly straightforward. Cooper has definitely gone this one alone. He’s working independent of all true assistance. He’s a free agent with an agenda, a goal that only he really knows about. He shuns the assistance of others except when absolutely necessary. He makes the journey ultimately alone, though he did attempt to bring some along for the ride. There would have indeed been safety in numbers, but Cooper cannot proceed to his goal with them.

From where I stand

There’s a world where you can

All that you lost, you get back

And all that you want, you can have

His goal, of course, is for none of what happened to have to have happened at all. To end the torment and break the cycle. Get back everything that was lost – namely Laura – and that which stemmed from it. It’s definitely a sign of hope to believe this and we know it is what Cooper choses to chase after.

I’ve been dancing in the moonlight

I’ve been laughing with this firelight

Living, I’ve been giving

I’ve been living with the firelight

I’ll be fine, fine

I’ll be fine, fine

I’ll be fine, fine, fine

Cooper’s playing with fire, and, if you ask me, the “I’ll be fine”s are simple attempts at self assurance. A desire to believe what he’s saying because his task is daunting and his future is unknown and unstable, and the outcome of his mission could alter things for the worse. Despite being peppy, it’s a sad enough song. Almost depressing but not in the same way as some others. In a lot of ways, I feel like this song is meant to throw the viewers for a loop – setting a different mood than perhaps the lyrics should imply, and convincing us to believe, along with Dale, that’s he’ll be fine.

I’ve Been Loving You Too Long by Otis Redding is the first to make an appearance in Part 15. It’s perfectly fitting to Norma and Ed’s plight and beautiful especially for the version chosen, a live performance. Lynch loves live performances but, additionally, it speaks to a certain level of community involvement in the ongoing love affair between two of its most prominent citizens. At the end, just like in the song, everyone is rooting for them, foremost among them is their oldest fan, Shelly. Despite this, it also continues the trend of making classic love songs seem somewhat ominous.

Threnody also makes an appearance again.

The first song played at the Roadhouse is Sharp Dressed Man by ZZ Top. Discounting that this song plays against James’ and Freddie’s altercation with the husband of Renee, it’s fairly clear that this song is heralding the return of Dale Cooper in the next Part. We all know who dresses sharply and who all the girls (Audrey, Annie, Diane) are apparently crazy for. As a fun nod to Dale’s electrocution, when Freddie sonic-punches Renee’s husband, the song skips a couple times. This song is the only piece not performed live at the Roadhouse, which, I assume, had to do with scheduling conflicts, or conflicts of interest. Ironically enough, the music video actually has some interesting correlations to Twin Peaks, namely that the members of ZZ Top (who cosplayed Woodsmen before it was cool, amirite?) appear and disappear at random throughout. Kind of eerie…

the veils at the roadhouse

No song in the second half of season three impressed me half as much as Axolotl by The Veils. As the song plays, Ruby, (played by the fabulous Charlyne Yi) a girl found at the Roadhouse, crawls in mimic of Dale towards the outlet across the floor, threading between the legs of the people present. The song itself, not to mention the performance and the particular colours of the lighting, is malicious. This song practically exudes menace. Covered by the music, Ruby screams, bloodcurdling. To be quite honest, I was shivering and not from the cold when I first saw the end of part 15. But let’s talk about the song itself.

Axolotl is literally an amphibian, but the name comes from the Aztec god Xolotl. Xolotl was the twin brother of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent and lead god of Aztec culture. The Xolotl connection is important for several reasons. For one, Xolotl has turned himself into corn. He’s associated with fire. Also, he happens to be eyeless. Literally, has empty eye sockets.

According to Nigel Davies in his book Empires of Early Latin America: The Aztecs, “Xolotl […is…] the god of fire, lightning, deformities and death.”

On its own, that information is pretty easily connected to the lore of Twin Peaks. I don’t think I need to spell any of it out, as the connections are obvious. Let’s turn to the music video that originally accompanied this song in 2016 when it was released, as it’s almost as Lynchian as part 8. It opens with a quote:

“I am not apt to follow blindly the lead of other men,” Charles Darwin 1887

Maybe Cooper should take a hint.

The video features a man looking the worse for wear, who is running across a desert, holding a book. There is a gunshot and he falls. When next we see him, he’s bleeding black gunk. It suddenly appears as if it’s night and not day. A figure enters the screen, and the man cowers before him. It’s a priest, holding a cross. There is also a Sheriff with a gun, and what might be a sub sandwich. We are next show a cheerleader with a football player on a leash. Finally, a middle aged man and woman sit in front of a military transport vehicle. They are eating TV dinners and watching a small old tube TV. All of this is in the same desert location.

All the while the man is convulsing and cowering away from them and from the spotlight that is shining on him. He starts to cough up the black gunk. We see that on the middle aged couple’s TV is a trippy looking, badly coming in, cartoon video of Eve taking the apple from the garden of paradise, with the snake looking down at her from a tree.

The convulsing man’s eyes are close, and his eyelids are painted to look as though his eyes are totally white. He throws his head back and the black substance streams uncontrollably from his mouth. The middle aged couple mouth along with the singer the line “Baby’s got a belly full of black soot”.

The priest, the sheriff, the cheerleader and the football player all watch on as the black substance starts to bubble up from where it fell in the sand. It spreads into a pool and from it a bush, on which grow feathers, sprouts.  All proceed to freak out, and then, from above we see a being rise, shrouded in a black cape and wearing a dark grey hat. Tentacles rise from beneath it. The tentacles kill all the onlookers, except the middle aged couple, who also appear to have white eyes and are drooling either blood or the black substance. The TV is now showing a shadowing figure – potentially the same one. Day arrives again and the feather push is still in the pool of black.

When choosing songs, I am sure that David Lynch considered many different aspects. Some he chose, I’m sure, purely for the sound, others for the lyrics, and yet more for a combination of both. All evoke a certain mood. While I could write an entire article about this song, I’d like to parse it down. Which elements were the most important here? I think the answer is all of them, but with the lyrics falling in last. I’ll examine the lyrics anyways.

I’m glowing bright, obsidian

Axolotl amphibian

Un-elemental chemical

Got me growing six black tentacles

A little nightmarish, a little maudlin

Good golly go get that kid some laudanum

Salvation’s more than I can afford

Who needs the Devil when you’ve got the Lord?

There’s a clear religious angle to this song, especially when paired with its music video, and that, I don’t believe was the goal here. An additional angle that seems to appear is “death to conformity”, which follows with the quote. This, to me, is clearly not just a Cooper song. It’s a Twin Peaks as a whole and all who reside in it song.Considering the elements of the show and of the music video, save the preacher, the focus is quite definitely small town, traditional Americana – either the death of it, the destruction it wreaks and/or the underlying darkness that exists even in the seemingly perfect places of society. This is about the alienness, the wrongness, the feeling of something that doesn’t quite belong.

Oh my soul

Losing control

Who built this heart?

Oh my God

Corruption is rampant and spreading. This is the blackness and the darkness inside the people of Twin Peaks, or even the world. It is, if anything, definitely a song that works analogously to “Call for Help”. The true depravity of society, perhaps, being uncovered and done away with.

Now sister Maggie’s coming in fleet-foot

Baby’s got a belly full of black soot

I got the feeling I better just stay put

And she’ll love you better than any real man could

An accidental amphibian

I’m growing giddy as a Gideon

Another head for the chopping board

Who needs the Devil when you’ve got the Lord?

This verse is stranger, more difficult to parse apart. It certainly speaks to the desire of fitting in, despite something at the very core of the person or people that denies them this.  A Gideon, as far as I can tell is another religious reference, possibly to zealous judges.

The Darwin quote to set up the song is also indicative of its angle. Darwin studied biology and put forth evolution. Axolotls are the only known amphibians that don’t undergo a metamorphosis. Has the person in the song remained the same? Has the town of Twin Peaks? I think the question at the heart of this song is “Where does the darkness come from?” Together with the driving instrumentals and the harsh vocals, this song is emotionally raw and violent to the ear. If a more perfect song choice exists, I don’t know what it is.

Tune in next Week for the Conclusion of this series!

Written by Eileen G. Mykkels

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