The smoldering sultriness of Elvis Presley. The boy-next-door good looks of Ricky Nelson. The pure falsetto pathos of Roy Orbison. The heart-clutching guitar twang of Duane Eddy. The dreamlike etherealism of David Lynch’s filmic experiments. Take all of these ingredients, mix in a crack band of rockabilly sidemen billed as Silvertone, and bake in the ripe heat of the turn of a decade, when everything slides uneasily forward while everybody looks nervously backward. What emerged from this particular oven, back in 1990, was Chris Isaak.
He’d actually been recording since 1985, but his haunting retro sound didn’t catch on until Wicked Game (a song from
his third album, Heart Shaped World) was featured in Lynch’s 1990 film Wild at Heart, a movie that also featured Isaak in a supporting role. The image, the sound, and the atmosphere came together to propel him fameward.
Strangely enough, though he has continued to record and tour throughout the 90s and into the oughts, he is better known in recent years for his clever, sharply funny cable television series. Nevertheless, no one who has heard Chris Isaak sing is likely to forget the shimmering musical spell he casts as he closes up the last fifty years in a sonic telescope, and opens it up again into an emotional kaleidoscope.