AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: DANNY ELFMAN/BIG MESS

Ever since his days as the singer, songwriter, front man, and ringleader in Oingo Boingo, Danny Elfman has always been unpredictable. He first came to prominence in his brother Richard Elfman’s 1980 film FORBIDDEN ZONE, in which he performed with his band – then called The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. In 1979, the group shortened its name to Oingo Boingo and streamlined their sound into a quirky New Wave beat. Immediately, they became a sensation in their hometown of Los Angeles, releasing an EP on I.R.S. Records before signing with A&M Records. Oingo Boingo became the most played local band on KROQ, one of the most influential radio stations in Southern California. Hits like “Ain’t This the Life”, “On the Outside”, “Private Life”, “Only a Lad”, and “Grey Matter” revealed a songwriter like no other. Dramatic, creative, and cerebral, Danny Elfman took Pop, Rock, and New Wave into new and exciting directions. Somehow, their massive success on the West Coast was only trickling into other states and barely resonating outside of the U.S. Elfman and the band needed to make a change if they wanted to achieve greater success…

Switching over to MCA Records, Danny Elfman released a solo album in 1984 before Oingo Boingo finally scored a commercial hit with their theme to the 1985 motion picture WEIRD SCIENCE. With a poppier sound, Oingo Boingo scored several more minor hits for MCA before changes behind the scenes altered the future of both Danny Elfman and the band. Interested in composing film scores, Elfman collaborated with director Tim Burton on several film projects. At the same time, Oingo Boingo was still creating music, which had become a bit darker by their 1990 album DARK AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL. Balancing both his burgeoning career as a film composer and being the leader of a Rock band became overwhelming and the 1994 album BOINGO was the band’s final release. However, his career as a composer went from strength to strength. Between 1986 and 2020, Danny Elfman has composed the scores to dozens of films including PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE, BEETLEJUICE, BATMAN, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, MARS ATTACKS!, MEN IN BLACK, GOOD WILL HUNTING, SPIDER-MAN, SCROOGED, JUSTICE LEAGUE, and many, many more. His best-known soundtrack is THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, a monumental mix of musical mayhem that is now considered a holiday classic… during both Halloween and Christmas! With his schedule dominated by film scores, Danny Elfman has not released a Rock/Pop album since the final Boingo album in 1994… until now!

Like everyone else, Danny Elfman has felt the emotional strain of the COVID pandemic, politics, and civil unrest. When he and the world were faced with lockdown, he took his creative energy into his studio and began piecing together a collection of songs inspired by these dark times. And in 2021, he releases BIG MESS, his first solo ‘rock’ album in 37 years. This double-album opus is most certainly not what you might expect from the man that sang “We Close Our Eyes” and “Gratitude” some 30+ years ago. In fact, BIG MESS is a mixture of everything he has done since the beginning of his career. The core of the album is a heavy Rock stomp – closer to the Industrial genre than the quirky jive of Boingo – mixed with big emotional cinematic sweeps, making this album sound like a twisted stage musical performed deep in the heart of madness. BIG MESS is an album that unveils itself depending on the mood of the listener. Is it “Happy” or “True”? Will you “Choose Your Side” or “Get Over It”? (“Sorry” about the song title puns). BIG MESS sounds like the troubled times that we are living through. It offers us a voice to express those thoughts that we often have when we are alone in the dark. It is an emotionally heavy album, but it is not without hope. We most likely will never hear new music by Oingo Boingo, but at least we are lucky that Danny Elfman has (briefly?) returned as a solo Rock artist. It is most definitely ‘good for your soul’…

DANNY ELFMAN

BIG MESS

Available NOW!

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: JAPANESE BREAKFAST/JUBILEE

Japanese Breakfast is singer/songwriter Michelle Zauner. Or rather, singer/songwriter Michelle Zauner is Japanese Breakfast. Zauner was born in Seoul, South Korea and moved with her family to Eugene, Oregon before she turned one. Falling under the spell of music, she eventually became part of several bands throughout her college years and beyond – Post Post and Little Big League – as well as starting her own solo project Little Girl, Big Spoon. After spending time away from Oregon while pursuing music and education, she returned to Eugene to spend time with family. It was there she began writing and recording material that would surface on the debut album by her new musical project Japanese Breakfast.

Her first album as Japanese Breakfast, PSYCHOPOMP, was released in April 2016. The album garnered plenty of critical attention, and within two months, she signed to the Dead Oceans label. SOFT SOUNDS FROM ANOTHER PLANET, Japanese Breakfast’s sophomore album, was released in July 2017. The release was greeted with universal acclaim and helped Zauner to reach a wider audience. Often described as Experimental Pop, Bedroom Pop, or Indie Pop, the music on Japanese Breakfast’s albums were multi-layered, revealing new melodies or moods with each spin. While the two albums were written during her mother’s cancer treatment and untimely death, there was still a sense of hope woven into the music’s many moods.

With the release of Japanese Breakfast’s third album JUBILEE, Michelle Zauner brings that sense of hope to the surface. Like a gracious mix of ‘90s Electronic Pop, ‘80s Synthpop and New Wave, and modern Indie Rock, JUBILEE doesn’t leap from the shadows and dance in the bright sunshine – it is more cautious and thoughtful than that – but it most certainly sparkles in these dark pandemic days. On the surface, this is another collection of catchy melodies that could easily cross over to commercial radio, but the hooks are too smart for the production-line Pop that infiltrates the charts. This is intelligent and emotional music that touches each listener in different ways… sometimes in different ways than Zaunder herself intends. For example, in “Be Sweet”, one can feel a slight Roxy Music-meets-Japan vibe. On “Sit”, the swirling sound is a blend of Dreampop and Techno. Reaching further into the obscure, “In Hell’s” keyboard hook sounds like early China Crisis. However, differently listeners will find different musical signposts scattered across JUBILEE’s aural landscape, whether Zauner purposely placed them there or not. JUBILEE is a journey with many destinations. It is up to you to decide on where it takes you.

JAPANESE BREAKFAST

JUBILEE

6.4.21