Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Danny Elfman - "Big Mess"

 Well, Elfman has an ear to what is going on in music for sure. It is heavier than what you might expect from him, the panned vocals bouncing around on the opening track are interesting. It is progressive without really trying to be. Like I tell my daughter when she hears Oingo Boingo this is Kack Skellington singing! The drums and guitars are way harder edged than what you would find in Oingo Boingo, which explains why this is not being done under that name. He has both Josh Freese and Robin Finck playing on this album. Guitar is also provided by Warren from the Vandals, so both the Vandals and Nine Inch Nails figures in the mix. By the third song things get more cinematic, though one foot is still planted in a darker industrial stomp that wads felt on "True".  He was going to perform some of these songs at Coachella, then co-vid happened so he recorded this album instead. 

The magnitude of dynamics employed here is not surprising considering his knack for musicals. Sometimes the results are weird like on "Dance With the Lemurs".  'Serious Ground" is a boozier smoked filled groove. It is hammered around by heavier undercurrents. I like hearing his lower register in places here. His voice has really held up well, so no excuses when your favorite aging rockers do not bring it. "Choose Your Side" is like a industrial strength Jack Skellington ballad as he muses about the turn of events in the world today, which is the overall lyrical theme. He really excels at arranging strings and should be considered every bit as great of a composer John Williams or Hans Zimmer.

"We Belong" is a crooned ballad sung in his lower register, that works for what it is though is the least dynamic of the songs so far and seems more like an interlude in comparison. An electronic pulse flows under "Happy". The vocals are arranged in an interesting manner, more driving drums begin to creep in as the song progresses. It eventually al clangs together in a more punk manner. His vocal performance on this album is even more colorful and diverse than what Mike Patton did on the new Tomahawk album. "Just a Human" carries over the punk drive from the previous song.  "Devil Take Away" has more of a rock groove to its stomp. The syncopation here gives room for Elfman to use more soulful flex of his vocal cords. 

One of the more impressive qualities of this album is how Elfman can blend contrasting styles and instrumentation into tightly coiled songs that work. He often does with with a dramatic flair to the quirkiness as can be heard on "Love In the Time of Covid". There is a cool tension to the verses of "Native Intelligence" which has more of an angular punk vibe when it explodes outward. There are varied shades of quirk and theatrical shifts in dynamics woven together with a masterful smoothness as Elfman tiwsts the narrative by his elastic singing style. "Kick Me" feels like it came from the soundtrack of a spy movie before going sideways with a Mr. Bungle like chaos. This carries over into "Get Over it" to some extent. The first minute and a half of this song already covers a great deal of ground. The last song 'Insects" is an Oingo Boingo song he has reimagined. This is ambitious but flows very naturally for him and he has the right band to help him pull this album off so I will give it a 10 and see how it grows on me, but he is more progressive than most progressive artists who set out to do so.   

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