After releasing a series of singles and videos over the past few months, renowned composer Danny Elfman is releasing his new double album Big Mess today, his first solo record in thirty-seven years. “I knew from the start that this wasn’t going to be a neat, easy-to-categorize record,” says Elfman. “It was always destined to be this crazy cacophony, because that’s who I am. The Big Mess is me.”
Big Mess was almost entirely created spontaneously during quarantine in 2020. It began as an experiment Elfman had been considering which combined aggressive rock band and orchestral strings in a way that had not been heavily explored. “Once I began writing,” he explained, “It was like opening a Pandora’s box and I found I couldn’t stop. None of it was planned. I had no idea how many songs I would write but from the start it quickly became a 2-sided project with heavily contrasting and even conflicting tones.”
Clocking in at 18 tracks, the sprawling, ambitious double album finds the 4x Oscar nominated, Grammy and Emmy Award-winning composer breaking bold new ground as both a writer and a performer. He is joined on the album by drummer Josh Freese (Devo, Weezer, The Vandals), bassist Stu Brooks (Dub Trio, Lady Gaga, Lauryn Hill), and guitarists Robin Finck (Nine Inch Nails, Guns N’ Roses) and Nili Brosh (Tony MacAlpine, Paul Gilbert).+
The songs on Big Mess combine both harmonically complex arrangements and simple high energy driving music with biting, acerbic wit as they reckon with the chaos and confusion of the modern world. And while the anger, frustration, and isolation of it all is palpable in his delivery, Big Mess is about more than simply blowing off steam. In making the space to truly sit with his emotions and write without limitations, Elfman achieved a kind of artistic liberation on the record that had been eluding him for decades, rediscovering his voice and reinventing himself all at once in the process.
Album opener “Sorry” showcases that frenetic electricity, with driving strings and swirling vocals giving way to bruising drums and snarling guitar. Like so much of the record, the song is eerily off-kilter, full of unsettling tension that threatens to explode at any moment. The sardonic “Happy” twists an upbeat pop melody into a bitter social commentary, while the searing “Love In The Time Of COVID” taps into the simmering angst of life under lockdown, and the slow-burning “True” faces down hopelessness and despair head-on. And a reworked Oingo Boingo song, “Insects”, transforms itself into a meditation on the greed and sickness of the American ruling class. Elfman’s vocals are gritty and growling here, and his raw unfiltered delivery only adds to the emotionally charged atmosphere.
“I hadn’t really sung anything as myself in 25 years,” he explains, “and to my surprise, I found that I could do things now that I couldn’t have done when I was younger. It was like discovering I had a whole new voice.”
This fall, Elfman will return to the stage as Jack Skellington with a live-to-film concert experience of Disney’s timeless holiday classic “Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas”. Taking place on October 29 at Los Angeles’s Banc of California Stadium, tickets are available HERE.