Album in Depth: Nightmare Revisited by Danny Elfman

Hi, I’m JotaKa. I’m a rocker by birth and grew listening to rock discs and long plays by the dozen. Yes, whoever read anything I wrote know that by now (I guess), but beside that, I grew with a Sega Genesis and a lot of movies. And to this day, I consider myself a fine retro gamer and a connoisseur of musicals. Yeah, I like musicals a lot. My favorite movie is a musical. I like watching and listening to Moulin Rouge, Chicago, Little Shop of Horrors, Disney movies, My Fair Lady, Les Miserable, Phantom of The Opera and a hell lot of others so much, that I believe that is why I watch movies for their soundtrack. There are some movies that I watch that I don’t remember the face of one actor, but really like the flick because of the soundtrack. Ironman 2 sucked, but the soundtrack, man was it awesome!

Well, enough about that, my favorite movie is a musical. And what musical is that? Nightmare Before Christmas. In a time where you could see a Tim Burton movie without expecting to see that ugly white Depp face glued all over it, Tim Burton made a stop motion movie for Thunderstone Pictures, which is a Disney’s company, about how the holidays existed. It specifically talks about Halloween, the protagonist Jack Skellington and what happens when holidays try to merge one another. This movie was actually based on a poetry that Tim Burton wrote when he was a little kid, seeing the Halloween decoration being replaced with the Christmas decoration. The integral poetry can be read here.

I fucking love it. I had the movie in VHS back in 1993 and as soon as the double-DVD with extra feature got into my claws, I bought it. And all the memories came back, as this is a fucking wonderful movie. There is some complaints, though: Sally and Jack’s love sounded like just a minor point instead of the great finale, Santa sounds really pissed off of what Jack done and even so try to make him happy (in the poetry, Santa understands Jack) and I always got the feeling that the other holidays door could at least be checked: I would really enjoy seeing St. Patrick’s World. There must be so much drunken people there and little elfs yelling: “Get off of me lucky charms”.

It really bugs me that nowadays, Nightmare Before Christmas has become a emo thing. I’m getting sick and tired of backpacks, necklaces and tattoos on people who don’t even know what it is all about. And I did ask three guys that had backpacks with Jack’s smug on it if they had any idea who was Jack Skellington, and I think they answered “no”, because I couldn’t hear anything beneath that lipstick, make-up and awful hair.

Anyway, I was getting prepared for one more week of study, when my parents brought me this from the CD-store: Nightmare Revisited. It chocked me as I never even heard of this thing till today, and it’s been around since 2008. In eleven days, it will complete two years. And I never even heard of it. So, with this in mind, I thought to myself “why not share the joy?” here it is, Album in Depth: Nightmare Revisited.

Just a pointer: I will compare the songs with the original ones, obviously. So, if some people think that I’m being unfair, it’s just that I’m comparing it with the 1993 soundtrack, which I already had for a long time.

So, let’s see, opening up the plastic case, let’s get this over with: Nightmare Revisited by a shit amount of people.

1st track: “Overture” by DeVotchka –

Band: Devotchka is a multi-instrumental quartet from Colorado. They’ve been around since 1997 and have a pretty decent career.

Song: The first song of the album is all you will ever need to get into the bizarre and crazy world that Nightmare Before Christmas is situated. The song is mostly strings, remembering the Dark Vaudeville style of Voltaire but with a complete shadowy tone. As being a synthesis of the whole album, it starts with “What’s This”, goes to “Making Christmas”, hints “Jack’s Obsession” and repeats “Jack’s Lament” going through a graver tone until the cut out. The song is incredibly well done and met every standard I was idealizing for this album. I heard other works of Devotchka and they didn’t do anything better than this, in my opinion.

Original vs. Cover: Although the nostalgic factor favor the old soundtrack and original,I got to give the prize to DeVotchka. Wow. They did a terrific job, because the original is really, really good. The original is orchestral and puts you into a dreamy state of mind, but we don’t want a dreamy state of mind, we want a darker and bizarre like the scenarios that Tim Burton is well known for. Original 0 x 1 Cover.

2nd track: “Opening” by Danny Elfman –

Band: Danny Elfman is the official composer of most Tim Burton works. Beside one or other work of his, all of them amaze me. Just to tell a few, Beetlejuice, Batman and, of course, Nightmare Before Christmas. In this movie in particular, he even dubs Jack Skellington on the songs.

Song: Well, it’s not actually a song. It’s just Danny Elfman reciting the first lines of the movie and more, in a really eerie way. “‘Twas a long time ago/Longer now/than it seems/in a place that perhaps/you’ve seen in your dreams/For the story that you are about to be told/began with the holiday worlds of old/Now, you’ve probably wondered/where holidays come from./If you haven’t I’d say/it’s time you begun./For the holidays are the result of much fuss/and hard work from the worlds that create them us/Well you see now, quite simply/that’s all that they do,/making one unique holiday/especially for you/But once, a calamity ever so great/occured when two holidays met by mistake”. It really induces you to the whole plot. After these two songs, you get really fired up for the next one.

Original vs. Cover: The only difference between these songs is that the original voice is all clunky and sounds like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, while the new one is just a normal voice, but with something that look like a real storyteller. Original 0 x 2 Cover.

3rd track: “This is Halloween” by Marilyn Manson –

Band: I FUCKING HATE MARILYN MANSON! WHY? WHY THE HELL? Well… For those who do not know, Marilyn Manson is a singer that lives on being controversial and denying it. Holy crap, I hate this guy. He’s a pretentious asshole that tries to sing but don’t sing well, and made a career out of a spooky face and a god awful physic. He is like Britney Spears: live by doing shit and appearing on media. Thank god that Marilyn Manson doesn’t appear on the news some time now. Oh, and he has an eponymous band that already released seven albums and has a heck of a kind of cult following.

Song: As I was expecting it already, it is horrible. I think I already heard this shit elsewhere, I believe on Mtv, but not really sure. The overdriven guitar sounds like crap, the muffled drum is bad as hell, the kind of digital vocal really screws the hell out of me. Hearing Marilyn Manson trying to do falsetto really makes me have migraine. The lyrics are unclear in some parts but really clear in others, as the guitar sometimes changes and it gets really enjoyable for 2 or 3 seconds, but I can’t shake the feeling that, when it goes back, it gets a little strange.

Original vs. Cover: The cover doesn’t hold a candle against the original. In the whole musical, it is one of the songs that I dislike the most, but still is really ingenious as it gets the viewer to accept the idea of what exactly exists on Halloween Town. Original 1 x 2 Cover

4th track: “Jack’s Lament” by All American Rejects –

Band: The All American Rejects is a 1999 band that presented itself with a really bland punk rock and evolved into a kind of emo music. It has some tunes that I like, though, but in all, it is not in my list of good bands.

Song: Well, the song would be really good to hear if it wasn’t for the vocals: I found them really obnoxious. The strings did a terrific job, as the guitar, although discrete. The song is about Jack sad because of all the repetition year after year, but I can’t sense in the singer voice real lament. It may be nitpicking, but I really desired a lament that really sounded like a lament.

Original vs. Cover: The only difference is the vocals and back vocals that in the cover version are really dull. It’s just that I don’t think it is suited for this song, while Danny Elfman does a wonderful job. Original 2 x 2 Cover

5th track: “Doctor Finkelstein / In The Forest” by Amiina –

Band: Amiina is a female Icelandic quartet that uses mostly strings, but has a huge array of instruments. In their shows, they leave it on the stage and grab them as they go. It has a soothing sound all an all, and it really distresses you on a cloudy day.

Song: This song is really well made. Not only they follow the original quite religiously, they present their own characteristics in it as well, joining in the mixture such things as flutes and keyboards. It is all instrumental and it is a really good instrumental song.

Original vs. Cover: This one is a tough one. The songs are pretty much the same, but I gotta hand it to the cover side. Until now, this album has showed his expertise on instrumentals more than vocalized song. Original 2 x 3 Cover

6th track: “What’s This?” by Flyleaf –

Band: Flyleaf is an alternative rock band and has been active since 2000. They were really blessed by critics as the next great thing, as they released to this date two albums. I must say that their work doesn’t suit my style, but there were some things here and there that I really, really, enjoyed.

Song: The song tries to be psychedelic with a really strange effect on the guitar and the female vocal don’t miss one single note, but again, it’s not something that I would like. If you are a fan of System of a Down, Flyleaf or any other Alternative Metal band, this song may flow with your boat. In all, it is a really cute song with a really good vocal.

Original vs. Cover: The cover sounds like a dream and misses the entire connection that it could’ve had with the theme, which is Jack meeting Christmas. The cover misses most of the enchantment the original has over this, as the soundtrack has bells and it really sounds like a strange Christmas tune. Original 3 x 3 Cover

7th track: “Town Meeting Song” by The Polyphonic Spree –

Band: The Polyphonic Spree is an orchestral mess that Tim DeLaughter started in reaction to the death of the guitarist of his previous band. It is a crap load of people playing a crap load of instruments, with Tim DeLaughter on the vocals. You may recognize them by their success with the music “Light and Day”.

Song: Well, this is fucked up. The original has 2:56, but this one has 9:50. And as always, it is an orchestral mess. It sounds like comfortably numb in the beginning, and even as the voice begins, the song sounds like Pink Floyd. The solos are like Pink Floyd, the singing is like Pink Floyd. However, it takes a turn for the worse when the other characters are introduced in the song as they ask what the hell did Jack brought from Christmas Land, and they respond in a very, very slow and boring way. It could’ve been really fast talk, like in a real talk, but no, it is all pompous and shit and the arrangement keeps them from rhyming and having metric, as the lyrics are already formed. This was not well thought threw.

Original vs. Cover: I don’t like the original version, but the cover, holy crap, the cover sucks. When you get one of the worst songs out of the basket and stretch it out, you know you are losing big time. This song just doesn’t fit in with the album or the story in any way. Original 4 x 3 Cover

8th track: “Jack and Sally Montage” by Vitamin String Quartet –

Band: The Vitamin String Quartet is, obviously enough, a String Quartet from LA that gets rock and pop albums and convert them to classical orchestral violin. They have over thirty records, going from Beatles to Arcade Fire, Pink Floyd to AC/DC, and Offspring to Led Zeppelin. If you get your hands over one of their records, listen to it. It is fucking awesome.

Song: The song is all instrumental, and again, this is where the album shines with all his glory. The song is incredibly well done, proving once again that the Vitamin String Quartet is a great musical group. The song doesn’t focus only on the more treble strings, like violins, and at some times the main voice is on the cello. It is a really nice piece of music.

Original vs. Cover: Although my heart belongs to the original, the instrumentals on this cover album are simply fantastic. The melody is the same, the arrangement is the same, but the quality of this one is just amazing. Original 4 x 4 Cover

9th track: “Jack’s Obsession” by Sparklehorse –

Band: Sparklehorse is an American band led by multi-instrumentalist Mark Linkous, which has collaborated with a lot of people throughout the years. Unfortunately, he passed away early this year. The song is like a psychedelic experience, but I believe that it is all too psychedelic and too simple. It just doesn’t combine, as I also dislike his voice.

Song: The song is ass. Not in depth enough? It is just two guys singing with a guitar and some strange noises on the background. It all sounds so passive and calm and it’s not what I expect of a song named Jack’s OBSESSION. As the lyrics are already standard, the song sounds misplaced and out of rhythm. It just sick and shitty. This, again, seems like it wasn’t planned beforehand.

Original vs. Cover: This is one of my favorite tracks from the original soundtrack, and by god, the cover is ass. Easy pick for me, as Danny Elfman really put some life into the song; in opposition to Mark Linkous that sucked all the life away (I swear this is not a death joke). Original 5 x 4 Cover

10th track: “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” by KoЯn –

Band: KoЯn is an alternative metal band formed in 1992. It has a huge cult following, nine albums and an episode in South Park. All in all, I can’t say I don’t like them, but it doesn’t make my style and I think they made the second worst cover in history, with Another Brick in the Wall pt. 2, but that’s just my personal feeling.

Song: It is alternative metal, all right. It is possibly the best song I have ever hear of Korn, as it gives the bizarre scenery that the whole piece is trying to accomplish. In this song, we get to learn about Oogie Boogie Man and all the plan of the “trick or treaters” and Korn did a terrific job with the voice work. The drums don’t work very creatively and the guitars are bland, but the inspired vocals match up for them.

Original vs. Cover: Obviously, the cover. The original one is pretty bad ass with the 3 kids being perfect singing of the plans, but when you substitute three innocent kids with men over thirty years singing metal, the thing gets really tough. Original 5 x 5 Cover

11th track: “Making Christmas” by Rise Against –

Band: Rise Against is a punk band formed in 1999. They are pretty good and are very influential in the punk scenario, with some pretty decent albums amongst the five of them. The guitar is always cool to hear and the vocals are what you expect from a great punk band.

Song: It starts with a well done riff and the vocals at first seem misplaced, but with the whole experience, it gets enjoyable. The song only has one weak spot: the guitar solo, which is really generic punk rock solo: not much thinking in to it. The drums are just your whole punk rock experience, but not in a bad way.

Original vs. Cover: This is the worst song of the original soundtrack and the cover stands alone really well. There are a bunch of characters that sing into this one song, and with just a few voices, Rise Against really separated one from the other in a really cool way. Original 5 x 6 Cover

12th track: “Nabbed” by Yoshida Brothers –

Band: Yoshida Brothers are a pair of brothers that perform traditional Japanese music, playing mostly the Shamisen. I didn’t find any other of their material around, so I can’t give more detailed information about them, other than they are from the north of Japan.

Song: Well, I don’t like traditional Japanese music, so I wasn’t expecting anything I would like, because it is the melody tested and proved right with the Shamisen. If you like the music style, maybe you will enjoy this song, but it’s not actually good as it takes away all the mood that the previous song established, and seems misplaced in the whole project. It sounds more “Japanese” themed than Nightmare Before Christmas.

Original vs. Cover: The original wins this one easily. Maybe because I didn’t like the Japanese theme, maybe it is because the original is really well put together and exceedingly well played, but in all, the original wins. Original 6 x 6 Cover

13th track: “Oogie Boogie’s Song” by Rodrigo y Gabriella –

Band: It’s just a Mexican duo of acoustic guitars that can really rock the shit out of them. They are really experienced and get really well around the whole rock department. They have four albums and every last one of them is a good album.

Song: This song surprised me by the fact that is all instrumental: in the story it is a very important moment. The guitar plays it very well and doesn’t seem out of place even for a fraction of a second. I got myself singing the entire song like an idiot, even dancing to some parts at well. I don’t know about everyone, but for me, acoustic guitar when well played, becomes a little creepy, so it fits perfectly with the theme.

Original vs. Cover: This one is a hard one. In the original side, we have a superbly well done Broadway type of song with an inspired vocal and a catchy tune. In the cover, we have the two really fast paced guitars competing each other as they go along. Man… The original is better, but not by much. Both are extremely good songs, but… the original. Original 7 x 6 Cover

14th track: “Sally’s Song” by Amy Lee –

Band: Amy Lee is the lead singer of Evanescence, which for me didn’t mean anything: I loathe Evanescence. But when she is alone, she takes care of herself pretty nicely. Along the vocals, she is a skilled classical pianist. All of her work alone is in collaborations, and to be sincere, most of them sucked.

Song: But here, she shines. I don’t know who is playing the piano, but if it is Amy, she owns it. The vocal suits the song exceedingly well and the back vocal is just perfect. The guitars discretely on the back work at her favor, although there is a part when the song kind of switches to lo-fi and it loses a lot. The song indeed is a really good song. I don’t know if it’s true, but I heard that once in a blue moon she sings this song at concerts. If it is true, next concert here, I will go just to hear this piece.

Original vs. Cover: Another hard one. The original is so dedicated and pure, and the cover is so well played and performed. The cover only has piano, while the original, as sung by the strange trio with no really significance, so it has sax, cello and accordion. Whoa… I just can’t decide. They both are so well done: you can hear that they both put their souls into it. Man, tough one: Amy Lee’s version. Original 7 x 7 Cover

15th track: “Christmas Eve Montage” by RJD2 –

Band: RJD2 is a rap and hip-hop producer that already made some work on his own, counting four albums of his own authorship. Although most of his work is hip hop and rap styled, his 2007 album, The Third Hand, presented RJD2 playing instruments on most of the tracks. So, since the album in review here is from 2008, we can expect to not hear techno crap. Yey!

Song: Forget about that. For most, it is techno crap. But beside that, I got to say that this music was a big deal to classify in “complete garbage with no redeeming factors” or “complete garbage with some redeeming factors”. When the nauseous beat stops, the song enters a Funkadelic guitar solo and later something that reminds me a lot of Pink Floyd. I can’t blame everything on this music, but the fact is, it depends a lot in a shitty techno part with a lot of that screeching yell noise that got out of style in the eighties. The song is kind of good, but not entirely good. I guess it stands in the balance between a D and a F.

Original vs. Cover: After two really hard ones, thank god an easy pick. This song gets beaten up by the whimsical original so bad that the cover can’t even see it in a distance. Original 8 x 7 Cover

16th track: “Poor Jack” by Plain White T’s –

Band: Plain White T’s is a pop rock band that got just recently mainstream attention with Hate (I really don’t like you), although the single is from 2007 and the band was formed ten years after. They have a really light energy to it all and in all their work, they sound a lot like the Killers, but not too much that would sound strange or bad.

Song: The band got around exactly what they should’ve done, which is rerecording the song. Unfortunately, they didn’t put any signature mark in it, although the kind of Spanish guitar on some excerpts really gives some significance to the whole deal. In all, a strong song with a vocal that really doesn’t know whether to put a lot of emotion or no emotion at all.

Original vs. Cover: This is my favorite song of the original soundtrack, so I thought this would be an easy pick, as it is. The cover song is fucking awesome but it is just a replica that didn’t know its place. Original 9 x 7 Cover

17th track: “To the Rescue” by Datarock –

Band: Datarock, for my dismay, is a Norwegian electro rock group, formed in 2000 that get real good critics globally. They make this electro kind of music with a rock kind of percussion. Although the hype and success, they only made two albums in their career.

Song: This song is techno bullshit, but again, like RJD2 song previously, it makes his redeeming factors when they travel far from the techno crap. When they try the more melodic things with that insufferable beat, the song gets pretty enjoyable. It is a really hard one to classify accordingly, but this one gets more closer to the F grade then RJD2 trial and error.

Original vs. Cover: As the album approaches the end, even the instrumentals get more electronic and, by that, far from my taste. The original has a really magic tune with Jack realizing his errors and running to save Santa Claus, so, the techno did nothing at all to improve this feeling: actually, all he did was worsen it. Original 10 x 7 Cover

18th track: “Finale/Reprise” by Shiny Toy Guns –

Band: Shiny Toy Guns is an indie band that was formed in 2002 and enjoyed certain fame in the alternative ward, even being nominated by an Emmy with their debut album. Even so, I don’t like their sound by a bit, as they are really obnoxious.

Song: This song should be the one everyone was hoping to cover. It has excerpts from the melody of This is Halloween, What’s This and Sally Song, so the guy in charge could show a little of everything, but Shiny Toy Guns decided to ruin it all. At the Halloween part, the overdriven guitar sounds like hell has broke loose, and the melody of all the songs are completely altered, to a unrecognizable step that no one has a clue. Shiny Toy Guns had the club and the ball and missed it entirely: A shame.

Original vs. Cover: This is the end of the journey, and the original sounds like that, ending all his knots and uniting Jack and Sally with a duet, instead of a sonnet, of Sally’s Song, as all the other characters are in awe by the strangeness that is snow and Christmas. However, Shiny Toy Guns decided on a new approach and take all rhythm, metric and melody of it. Original 11 x 7 Cover

19th track: “Closing” by Danny Elfman –

Song: The song is exactly as the second track, so I can just paste the entire lyrics here again: “And finally, everything worked out just fine./Christmas was saved, though there wasn’t much time./But after that night, things were never the same—/Each holiday now knew the other ones’ name./And though that one Christmas things got out of hand,/I’m still rather fond of that skeleton man./So many years later I thought I’d drop in,/and there was old Jack still looking quite thin,/with four or five skeleton children at hand/playing strange little tunes in their xylophone band./And I asked old Jack, “Do you remember the night/when the sky was so dark and the moon shone so bright?/When a million small children pretending to sleep/nearly didn’t have Christmas at all, so to speak?”/And would you, if you could, turn that mighty clock back/to that long, fateful night, now think carefully, Jack./Would you do the whole thing all over again,/knowing what you know now, knowing what you knew then?”/And he smiled, like the old Pumpkin King that I knew,/then turned and asked softly of me, “Wouldn’t you?”” Actually, this was going to enter the movie but it all had to be chopped up, I don’t know why. It is a really cool ending to the whole plot.

Original vs. Cover: Funny. I thought I was going to lean to the Danny Elfman side, but I got to say that for this tune, the eloquent voice of Patrick Stewart, over the slurred speech of Danny Elfman, I preferred Patrick Stewart. Original 12 x 7 Cover

20th track: “End Title” by The Album Leaf –

Band: The Album Leaf is a project founded by Jimmy LaValle that tries to be ambient song through the usage of various instruments and mellow sound. The project already did recreation of soundtracks including “Sunrise: A Song for two Humans”.

Song: This song is your typically credits song. It is a mix of all the songs of the movie and something more. The difference is that this time around, The Album Leaf tries to innovate with some hip-hop beat and so: nothing to be remarked, nothing to be elucidated.

Original vs. Cover: At least, the cover is not your typically credit song, it is kind of innovative. The Original is just a mix of unaltered recapitulations of the entire soundtrack. Original 12 x 8 Cover

So, how did it all hold up? The final result is a solid 12 x 8 to the original, so that mean that the original won. But that doesn’t mean Nightmare Revisited is bad: to lose to a magnificent soundtrack that was the original by only 4 points is something to be remembered by. If you love the original soundtrack, as do I, it is a sure buy. If you just like one of the members of this soundtrack, go after it. I just don’t recommend it if you want an experience exactly as the original one was because it isn’t even by far.

This is JotaKa, signing off.

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