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Only a Spaz

Overall Album Score: 9.5 out of 10

This is the 572nd review Iíve written for my site, and I think by now itís pretty well established that I like weird music. Yes, me and Oingo Boingo have been good friends for quite some time.

This band was originally formed by Richard Elfman in 1972 as the Mystic Knights of Oingo Boingo. But they were a performance band and mostly played and performed eccentric covers. It wasnít until the late Ď70s when Richardís brother, Danny, took control of the band. (Richard went on to direct cult classic Forbidden Zone.) And Danny had a serious songwriting bug, so he shortened the groupís name and turned it into a pop band.

Even though Oingo Boingo had a few major hits in the Ď80s (including ďWeird ScienceĒ and ďDead Manís PartyĒ), Elfman is much more famous for being a film composer for Tim Burton and writing the Simpsonís theme song. I know a few people who only listen to film score music. I find that to be a pretty strange music-listening practice (I mean, isnít this music weíre supposed to hear when a MOVIE IS PLAYING????), but whatever. Hey, if you want to explore your favorite film composerís roots, then you must listen to his band. Elfman also has pretty decent chops! He has a funny warble and sings like a lunatic. Not bad. The band has some pretty good instrumentalists, too.

And what roots these are! As George Starostin accurately put it, Oingo Boingo kind of took over the whole loon-rock scene that the Sparks dominated in the Ď70s. (This doesnít help the average person, though Ö nobody seems to know who the Sparks are.)

Elfmanís songwriting is intensely creative, bizarre and energetic. Most of these songs even have a danceable beat. So this shouldnít be a difficult group to get into.

Oingo Boingo fit nicely in the New Wave movement, which already peaked by 1981. But their approach to it (ala lunatics trying to make you dance with their crazy music) was like an electric bolt sent throughout the system. This is such fresh-sounding music that itís difficult (for me, anyway) not to get caught up in the whole thing.

On the downside, most of these songs sound alike. I had a hard time finding new things to say about the songs in the track reviews. That doesnít make this album any less enjoyable. They found a niche and they knew how to flesh it out to its full potential and then some. Iím never ready for this album to end.

Overall Album Score: 9.5 out of 10 (Prepare to dance like a loony fool.)

Average Song Score: 9.4 (Quirky songs, catchy melodies, danceable beats. What more could you possibly want?)

Album Tilt: 9.5 (I thought about giving this a 9.0 for being to samey at times, but Ö Elfman found a mood and NEVER LET UP. This album develops some real inertia.)

Artist Rating: 9.5 (Itís wild and weird. This ensures a solid rating in the artistic department.)

Track Reviews

Little Girls 10/10

What a start! Oingo Boingo starts things up with this utterly catchy and bouncy New Wave tune. The quirky instrumentation is utterly tight and polished. Basically, this is a perfect Ď80s pop song. OK, so what if the song is about statutory rape? It was an accident!

Perfect System 9/10

I probably should mention that if you are a socialist, Danny Elfman is likely to piss you off. A lot of Oingo Boingo songs have Libertarian themes to them (I would warn conservatives, but theyíre too busy listening to Toby Keith to bother with a ÖÖÖÖ band like Oingo Boingo). This song is much more quirkier and less catchy than ďLittle Girls,Ē but I still think itís utterly delightful. Itís very danceable, and itís peppered with all these weird whipping sounds. It even features some of this bandís famous festive horn sections. You canít go wrong.

On the Outside 8.5/10

This song has a really neat riff from that horn section. I suppose the melody is pretty catchy too. But for some reason I donít seem to like this song a whole lot (relative to the rest of the album). Maybe itís not strange enough. It features some Cars-like rhythm guitar, and a pretty cool sax solo in the middle of it. Actually, I probably love this song and donít realize it.

Capitalism 9/10

I donít normally bring up lyrics in my reviews but these are so anti-liberal that I canít resist. Elfman belts out these lyrics about the merits of Capitalism amidst some goofy new wave music. Ö I suppose Elfman could be joking about it, but the Libertarian ideals seem to be expressed in a good number of his songs. Anyway, this is another disjointed classic. And very dancey, too. Itís art-rock that you can dance to, and you can get some non-subtle political messages in the process.

You Got Me 10/10

Ask any music geek what theyíre favorite cover of the Kinksí famous song from 1964 is (which is generally considered the first hard rock song ever written), and Iím sure most of them would cite this assault from Oingo Boingo. Tons of goofy and inspired instrumentals abound in this version with a rather disjointed groove, a festive horn section in the middle of it Ö it seems like Elfman came up with one of more really weird things for it every 10 seconds or so. Bless you, Oingo Boingo.

Only a Lad 10/10

Well, this song is about a bad kid whose actions are justified by the conditions of society. (Yeah, this is anti-liberal.) But that doesnít matter because the song is really catchy! Itís infectious and itís danceable! Elfmanís spirited vocal performance gives the song life. Very fun.

What You See 9.5/10

I have a very difficult time describing these songs other than to call them nutty! Well, thatís a pretty adequate description, Iíd say. Elfmanís singing this song with a growl. The oh-oh-oh-oh-oh in the chorus is pretty memorable. Ö OK, Iíll dance to this song. I canít help it. Iíll enjoy myself.

Controller 9/10

This song is reminiscent of ska music, but itís really just another highly spirited Ď80s art-rock-dance song. Itís as quirky as this band always has been! Hey, nobody in the world can accuse this band of giving up mid-album Ö Itís as if theyíre quirky by design and they must hang onto it for dear life!

Imposter 8.5/10

A darker sounding song, but itís still pretty dang fun and, as always, danceable. This is a pretty mean-spirited and critical song about critics! Itís not about me, though, because Iím cool. Ö Itís a different sounding song altogether. I donít think the melody is as catchy as the other songs and itís probably the least quirky song on the album. Itís the worst song of the album but only by default. Really, itís great.

Nasty Habits 10/10

It sounds like Elfman recycled some of his ideas in this song to write the Pee Weeís Big Adventure and Beetlejuice soundtrack. This song definitely has an epic quality about it, which doesnít make it surprising at all that Elfman would go on to write music for quirky movies! This song seems something like ďBohemian RhapsodyĒ on speed. And itís just about as good as that song, I might add. The piano is featured in this song (keeping the beat), and put to good use (though itís only in the background). Some horns go nuts throughout the song, which lends it an even more insane atmosphere. Ö This is a very nice way to end the album! And it doesnít sound like any of the other songs, either, I might add. I kind of accused this album of sounding too much alike throughout. This is an exception.

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All reviews are copyrighted by the author, Michael Lawrence. Earwax in the fingernails? Errrrrrr.