“My anesthesiologist is f***ing my psychiatrist/And I feel no pain/cover me with Lidocane/I’m so happy everything’s so great/And the world is an oyster on an appetizer plate.”
The veil is thin, the world’s gone dark and our lauded Crown Prince of Soundtrack Danny Elfman has emerged from the engulfing smog with a manic, dystopian banger. If Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World were tossed in the ether of a half-remembered nightmare, this would be the score. With lyrics like “eye for an eye, tickety-tackity,” you might as well also throw a dusting of A Clockwork Orange in the mix. For the former frontman of Oingo Boingo, this is the first solo release in decades. How appropriate that Elfman unlock the gates of Hell on this high holy night of Samhain. Halloween is, after all, his Big Night.
“I always enjoyed Halloween because it was a night to let loose, to become something or someone else,” Elfman told Rolling Stone. “[Halloween is] a night to celebrate the dead, and ghosts, and monsters of all variety. A night for mutants, zombies, vampires, misfits, and miscreants to celebrate themselves and each other. And aligned with the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, a night to celebrate departed spirits … and for me, a night to laugh in death’s face (and feel safe doing so).”
This song, however, is not Elfman’s calling card variety of the tender sort of minor-key romance of his alter-ego Jack Skellington. Nor is it the funky jam style Boingo bounce of Dead Man’s Party. Happy serves as an exorcism of sorts, wrought from frustration, rage, and resignation to a gloomy fate.
The lyrics best reflect the sardonic spirit of Devo’s Beautiful World, woven together with the classic Elfman spin: a demonic, vaguely klezmer-sounding stomper. The ghoulish face of Big Brother Elfman morphs into horrifying guises as his vocals follow suit: a monotonous insistence on happiness in the wake of true-life horror, to a psychotic thrash metal chorus of demons espousing the empty distractions of Netflix and Minecraft. Choose your poison. Choose your poison.
“I originally wrote ‘Happy’ to perform at Coachella 2020,” Elfman said. “It was written to be an absurd anti-pop song, designed to begin as a very simple pop tune that degrades into something more subversive. The cynical nature of the lyrics echo how I feel about living in a semi-dystopian world turned upside down.”
Elfman played guitars and synthesizers on the track, flanked by drummer Josh Freese (Devo/Vandals/Nine Inch Nails), guitarist Nili Brosh (Dethklok), bassist Stu Brooks (Dub Trio), and additional synth meister Randall Dunn.
After Oingo Boingo’s mid-90s farewell tour, Elfman has denied any hopes of a reunion or even delving outside of his film scoring work. His lone pop solo album, So-Lo, was released thirty-six years ago. But, miracles do happen, and perhaps Elfman felt like the time was right: after all, it’s also the first blue moon in Taurus since the mid-1940s.
Elfman is signed to Anti-Label for solo material, and his planned Coachella appearance was expected to have revealed further possibilities for that…but “no news” for now from the label. For now, Happy will have to do. Fortunately, it’s brilliant, bold, and exactly how one would hope Danny Elfman would interpret the madness of existence during the Trump Years. Are you ready for a real scare?
Stream and download “Happy here.