Pros: Classic Danny Elfman, spooky and fun, ages very well.
Cons: Erm, it probably won't change your life or anything.
Stray-a-HAY-yayyayay-ange:(n) Out of the ordinary.
Bl-HAY-ay-yay-ah-a-hay-aynd:(adj) Unable to see.
IIIIIIIIIIIII-hay-ay-hay-I:(pr) Meant to denote oneself.
Oo-H00-oo oo-we-oo oo: ?
We're speaking Danny-Elfmanian, folks. It's an alien language, meant to appeal to the emotional human limbic system over the logical frontal lobes. The Rosetta Stone to this extra-terrestrial method of oral communication was beamed down to record store shelves in 1984, Mr. Elfman's So-Lo. With it's help, we can learn whether these aliens mean us good or harm. Are the emotional pleasures of this album a gift to we Earthlings? Or are they meant to lull us into a vulnerable state of ecstacy so Elfmanians can descend from the sky when we least expect it and suck our squishy gray matter out through crazy-straws?
We'll start with the meaning of the title: So-Lo. It is of course meant to denote Danny Elfman's first musical outing without his Oingo Boingo buddies. But why slash the word in half? "So Low". Could it be Mr. Elfman has a dark side? He was a little creepy in Oingo Boingo records, frequently yodeling about ghouls and haunted houses, but it was a humorous kind of creepy, like the movies he would score for over a decade later, such as Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Corpse Bride, to name a few. Some cuts on So-Lo are pretty damn serious. The third one, for example. Mr. Elfman stone-facedly tells the world to "go away from me/just go away". Martin Gore doubtlessly shed more than a few tears when he heard that one.
There's more serious stuff here. The sixth track, 'The Last Time' is a ballad where Danny Elfman slashes his heart open and lets it bleed into your ear. There's a quirky xylophone riff that pops up occasionally, just to remind you this is the jolly guy who would write the theme for a comedy venture about yellow people called The Simpsons five years later.
Is "Low" a reference to David Bowie's 1977 album? There's certainly a blend of glam and weirdness in So-Lo that recalls Mr. Bowie. The album starts out with 'Gratitude' a party-romper meant for sequin clothing and expensive vodka. Elfman then hops in his car, slams down on the gas, and takes us on a trip through 'Cool City', where "the music blasts all night" and "the girls want to be in movies." If you hunted down the deepest, noisiest club in Cool City, I daresay you'd find Mr. Bowie tucked into some dark corner, a shapely extra-terrestrial under his arm as sweat trickles down his shiny face. Why doesn't he just take that white mink coat off?
You may be cynical of my writing this. What if Elfmanians are up to no good? Perhaps, sometime during the first fifty times I spun this baby on my trusty turntable, my brain was absorbed by Elfmanians and I have become an Elfmanian drone. Perhaps they, the red-haired martians in the sky, programmed me to write this review so my thousands of review fans (heavy sarcasm) could unearth Mr Elfman's only solo pop record and become more recruits for the Drone Army.
I can't outright deny this allegation. I've found myself behaving strangely lately. Sometimes I find myself sitting on my couch with the So-Lo record playing passionately. "When did I get up and put that thing on?" I ask myself, and can find no answer. I recently have had the strange urge to watch cheesy 80s and 90s horror flicks. Stranger still, I find them very humorous. When the protagonist of Night of the Living Dead crawls out of his basement and reveals a set of hazy zombie eyes, I laugh until I can feel my spleen splitting. I also have sprouted a long green tail that squirts sulphuric acid at my will. Oh wait, that was always there.
Would it really be so bad if the Elfmanians took over the world, though? I don't think they want to enslave us to build pyramids that read 'Danny Elfman F^cking Rules' across their sides or anything. I think they just want to rid us of the burden of our conscious minds so we can enjoy the subtle art of music more thoroughly. You can't really call them 'evil' for wanting our minds, anyway. It's probably just what keeps their hyper-active imaginations going, like you or me eating a tuna sub beneath the green and yellow adornments of Subway. As the final So-Lo track goes, "everybody needs it."
Imagination really is what keeps this album bobbing comfortably above average or even exceptional. Musical finesse is a nice staple to an artist's portfolio, and experience is very nice too, but without imagination the two just don't work. It's like strolling around with a $120 Ralph Lauren tie and $200 Prada derby on, completely naked but for those two items. Mr. Elfman struts around in the whole suit, and damn does he look stunning in it. Sadly he'd never venture into the pop world solo ever again. So low are we.
1. Gratitude, 5:05: Very Good, dancy track with a super catchy chorus.
2. Cool City, 3:28: Good, Speedy music while Elfman paints a portrait of an imaginary city.
3. Go Away, 4:03: Very Good, Emo synth-pop at its most pristine.
4. Sucker for Mystery, 5:20: Good, spooky verbal imaginary from Mr. Elfman over fast music.
5. It Only Makes Me Laugh, 4:06: Good, Elfman reads off a laundry list of horrors and claims "It only makes me laugh."
6. The Last Time, 4:13: Very Good, super-soulful, peppy 80s ballad.
7. Tough As Nails, 4:31: Good, Elfman wordsmith's a portrait of a Schwartzeneggerian man with more than a little sarcasm.
8. Lightning, 3:46: Good, Elfman having fun on the mic.
9. Everybody Needs It, 3:50: Good, groovy and subtle little Hedonist manifesto.
Best Track: Gratitude
Worst Track: N/A
Funniest Track: Lightning
You may like this artist if you like: Oingo Boingo, Men At Work, Talking Heads, Freddy Mercury's singing, Jhonen Vasquez's comics