Danny Elfman made an album. Holy shit.
Danny Elfman! You probably know the guy. He's been in the Nightmare Before Christmases and the Batmans... and the Dumbos. He's a cool composer, but he also led an even cooler new wave band called "Oingo Boingo". I've only heard about 4 or 5 songs from them, but they seem like a band I would be interested in doing a discog dive on. Anyways, it's been almost 30 years since their last album and it's only just now that Danny wanted to step away from film scores and write legitimate material about political rage and the pandemic at 68 years of age. I was actually kinda hyped for it judging from the singles. Now that we finally have an 18-track, 72-minute double album from him, I'm "Happy" to say that "Big Mess" holds up solidly!
However, it could've been more consistent and I think the dramatic, prog-leaning first disc suffers the most from this problem. Still, it starts off with a few great highlights. "Sorry" is a fantastic choice for an opener, with a sinister riff, wonderfully symphonic background vocals, Danny Elfman's great vocal performance and dramatic lyrics about the grief and turmoil of living under a fascist power! "True" and "In Time" are also great tracks and "We Belong" is absolutely gorgeous! Tracks 4-6 are where it takes a noticeable lull, though. "Everybody Loves You" is the longest track on the entire record, but its ideas could've used some fine-tuning to make up for it. "Dance with the Lemurs" and "Serious Ground" fare better in comparison but are a little half-baked. Fortunately, it picks up with the last two tracks and the album actually flows surprisingly well for its size.
For what the first disc lacks in consistency, the second disc greatly makes up for it. This half of the album presents a huge tonal shift from the first as this shows Elfman letting out the kookier side that I don't really think he's shown since one of the few memorable sequences from "Corpse Bride" (fight me bitch!). He even seems to be using the Jack Skellington inflection again! What a lad! "Happy" is a fun, bouncy, sarcastic ode to the rough times we're just starting to come out of. It starts off with these pulsating electronic rhythms before the strings come in, followed by an explosive noise rock passage. I never thought of hearing the words "Snapchat, rotting rats, Minecraft, Cheerios" coming out of Danny Elfman of all people but here we are. Not as odd as the same guy singing about cybersex on "Love in the Time of Covid", which is as goofy as it sounds and I love it!
Other great highlights such as "Devil Take Away", "Cruel Compensation" and the beautifully energetic alt-metal cut "Native Intelligence" make up the bulk of this disc and it closes off with two career highlights! "Get Over It" has one of the best vocal performance I've heard from him yet, but it's "Insects" that's a true standout of the album! Honestly, I love this remake even more than the Boingo classic! I know fans are gonna spit on my face for this take, but I truly think this feels more... complete (?) than the original! This may come to genre bias, though, as it takes the zolo aspects of that song and translates them into a punk-y, more experimental, industrial rock canvas and I fucking love this shit! The lyrics are addictive, the switch-up to the funkier chorus (which isn’t brought up a third time as the lyrical themes of hatred progress from insects to the government, no longer making him want to dance) is great and the ending is chaotic as all hell. Also, my ADHD ass can't listen to this track without the music video of Danny’s Gmod rig prancing around a city!
The disc isn't perfect. "Kick Me" has grown on me within the context of the album but the execution is still kinda awkward. The instrumental goes off but Danny's vocals can't keep up with the intensity. Otherwise, I had a great time with "Big Mess". If it had been a little more consistent, this would've ranked within my top 15 of 2021. As it stands, it's still a charismatically-performed, well-produced and all-around fascinating album with some fantastic highlights, and one of the most fun listens I've had this year!
Fav Tracks: Sorry, We Belong, True, In Time
Least Fav Track: Everybody Loves You
Fav Tracks: Insects, Happy, Get Over It, Native Intelligence, Cruel Compensation, Devil Take Away, Love in the Time of Covid
Least Fav Track: Kick Me