Nightmare revisited

Nightmare revisited

Genre: Musicalhall gothpop

‘Nightmare Revisited’ is the new CD for Tim Burton’s ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’. It features cover versions of the entire soundtrack by bands and singers like Manson, Amy Lee, Shiny Toy Guns and Sparklehorse. Yes, we loved the original musical. Will we like the songs as much when we view them through the looking glass? Alessa Valentine finds out if the spirit of Jack is truly back.

‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ was special. Before its 1993 release there’d been nothing quite like it… and there’s been nothing quite like it since. Dark whimisical gothique musicals by major directors just don’t happen every day.

When I heard about the new digitally remastered DVD coming out with never-before-seen special features, I was ridiculously excited. When I heard about ‘Nightmare Revisted’, an entire album of covers of well-known and loved songs from the original soundtrack, I was incredibly apprehensive.

The album turned out to be much better than I had expected – but I’d have to add my standards were pretty damn low.

The album has twenty tracks – and fortunately only two true nightmares. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Let’s get those two nightmares out of the way so we can move on with our lives…

Keeping to a gruesome Halloweeny theme, All American Rejects bloodily butchered one of my favorite songs from the original movie, Jack’s Lament. I found Tyson Ritter’s vocals mediocre and at worst grating. He lacks emotion for a song that is all about despair. Musically, the band did absolutely nothing to save the song from the shameful vocals. Awful. Awful. Awful. Easily the album’s worst track.

Coming in at a close second for auditory misery is Flyleaf. They covered What’s This? and I couldn’t agree more. I’m a fan of Flyleaf which made this all the more painful for me. Lacey Mosley sounds almost unrecognizable. You can tell the strain of screaming onstage is taking its toll on her voice. She starts the song sounding inappropriately bored and the track gets slightly better but not by much. However, vocals aside, Flyleaf struck an interesting balance between their signature sound and the original sound of the song. Thematically it was a good song choice for Flyleaf… Coming from a place of ugliness and finding beauty. Being saved. Could have been amazing – but they missed the mark on this one.

The majority of the songs on the album are… well, they’re decent. They’re interesting if not mind-blowing. DeVotchKa brings a Gogol Bordello vibe to Overture while the Yoshida Brothers manage to blend a traditional Japanese sound with jazz and a touch of hip hop in Nabbed. Shiny Toy Guns offer a slightly creepy, very dreamy, deconstructed take on Finale/Reprise. Sparklehorse, a band whose sound is as offbeat and trippy as its name, provides a unique take on Jack’s Obsession. Whether I mean that in a good or a bad way, even I’m not sure yet.

If nothing more, the album will provoke nostalgia for the movie and works well as a teaser showcase for the artists involved. In many cases my interest was piqued in hearing more of their original work, where they wouldn’t feel constrained by doing cover versions.

Lastly, let’s look at the standout tracks in Nightmare Revisited The first is from Rodrigo y Gabriella, a wonderful Mexican duo who play beautiful acoustic guitar. Their take on Oogie Boogie’s Song is fresh and original, and my favourite song on the album.

Coming a very close second is Sally’s Song covered by Amy Lee of Evanescence. Though I’m not a big fan of her music, her vocals are beautiful and haunting, with the music following suit. The music has a light quality which transforms as Amy goes towards a deep, dark sound in the choruses and gets even more intense in the breakdown. Great job on her part. For even more beautiful Sally’s Song renditions, check out Fiona Apple‘s cover that came out with the re-release of the soundtrack in 2006.

Manson‘s cover of This Is Halloween, also off of the 2006 re-release, is rightly recycled here. It synchs perfectly with Manson’s style and though it’s slightly less heavy than some of his original work, it’s great nonetheless.

KoRn also makes an appearance on the album, pumping their magic into Kidnap the Sandy Claws and making the song their own. I’ve always felt that the band’s strength lies in their breakdowns and this song is no exception. It was difficult for me to refrain from breaking into a headbang during various parts of the song. All in all, an awesome track.

Last but definitely not least is The Polyphonic Spree. Sounding epic as ever, their cover of Town Meeting Song is larger than life and the longest track on the album at a somewhat insane nine minutes and forty nine seconds. They altered the melody a bit but it works well for their sound. The song unfolds like a story would, and it’s mesmerizing. Harps, horns, guitars and a children’s choir provide interest, and as The Polyphonic Spree move from soft to loud, slow to fast, they keep us guessing. Fun!

Despite its low points, Nightmare Revisited is an interesting and essential and canny addition to the Nightmare franchise, packed with a few unmissable. If you loved the movie, you owe it to yourself to give it a listen.