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Danny Elfman: So-lo (1984) by Dr. Mary T. Burgers (9/15/06)
March 6th, 2009 by maryburgers

Wake up! It’s 1984. Your name is Danny Elfman, mind and you are having a little trouble releasing your next album with your cult band, Oingo Boingo. It’s a good thing you’re Danny Elfman, so you are very clever and release the album as Danny Elfman, with your cult band doing all the backing and helping with arrangements.

The first track is “Gratitude (Short Version)”, as heard in Beverly Hills Cop but ironically longer. This is the most thematically and musically “Boingo” track, and it was released later on Boingo Alive, credited to the whole band. Danny’s at the top of his form vocally, alternately howling and cooing. The chorus rumbles along with insane energy and an amazing counterchorus. The lyrics are stirring, but don’t spend too much time thinking about them or you’ll realize they don’t actually make tremendous sense: “In the middle of a revolution/in the look of a child’s face/in the silence of the dinner table/in the stillness of disgrace”. How that fits in with the theme of “Gratitude” or any of the rest of the lyrics, I can’t be sure, but it makes for a hell of a chant.

It’s a bit of a shame when the highlight of the album comes at the beginning, because from there on you can only go downhill.

The next song ,“Cool City”, would be amazing to play Wipeout Fusion or Jet Set Radio Future to. The lyrics and main melody are not very memorable, and the guitars that chug along to the verse are a little too understated. As for “Go Away”, it is so mediocre New-Wave that it’s sort of painful. The first line is “Every time I see you now it makes me feel so bad”. That it just a world of no. I am glad Danny thought better of hiring those third grade lyricists after this failed experiment. “Sucker For Mystery” similarly lacks the manic, sinister delivery one would usually expect from Danny Elfman, and it’s nowhere near as dynamic as what we know he is capable of. It’s also a perfect example of not having enough substance for a song and then not knowing how to end it.

That brings us to “It Only Makes Me Laugh”, a joyful but bittersweet ska tune. It starts with a calypso-style multi-layered a capella harmony, which gives me shivers every time I hear it. The sentiment “darkness can only last so long if I laugh in its face” could have been trite if Danny didn’t play it so sincere and vulnerable. The horns in this song make me realize what the other songs were lacking. The lackluster synth-coated songs that have led up to this song are generic because they lack the high-energy Boingo touch.

In “The Last Time”, Danny thinks he is Annie Lennox. DANNY ELFMAN, YOU ARE NOT ANNIE LENNOX. PLEASE DON’T FORGET IT. “Tough As Nails” is funk-lite, and enjoyable enough. It’s certainly more fun than any of the sentimental, love-oriented songs that precede it. It has more variety than verse-chorus-verse, but unfortunately the chorus is just “he’s tough as nails” over and over, and then to spice it up a little, “he’s such a live wire”. Over and over.  “Lightning” shows a glimpse of my favorite Danny, which is OH MY GOD YOU ARE KIND OF TERRIFYING Danny Elfman, after he follows the boring chorus of  “they say lightning never strikes twice in a row”, he screams, “I should know! I was hit three times! Or was it four? C’mere, look at these holes!”

The album ends on “Everybody Needs”, which has an accordion and is yet somehow not that awesome. There’s a lot of build-up but no climax. In a song that’s based on innuendo (“You know what’s on his mind. Everybody needs it”), that’s a crime. It’s also a bizarre song to put at the end of an album and leaves you with the disappointed and unsatisfied feeling you sometimes get when you listen to a solo album of the lead singer of your favorite band and it’s not actually a solo album but it’s still terrible anyway. You know that feeling?

So what is it that’s different about Danny Elfman ft. Boingo that makes it not as good as Oingo Boingo? Vatos is there, Avila is there, my man Steve Bartek is there. The essential Danny Elfman, who has the most perfect voice in human existence, is there. What’s missing is the energy, the humor, a lot of the horns; the ominous, vicious themes; and it seems like a lot of the effort. Too many times the lyrics on this album are repetitive, clichéd, or just plain uninteresting.

I give this 3 out of 6 burgers.

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