This one came out of the blue for me today, inspired in part by this Dangerous Minds post about a different song from the same album. They used the word “spiky” to describe it, and that’s the best word I can think of to describe pretty much all of Oingo Boingo’s music. Spiky.
Prickly is another good word. Sharp and razor-edged also work. There is nothing soft or easy about this band, and that’s a good thing. I’m not a huge fan of their work, but I’d probably hate all of it if it didn’t sound like they’d all just gotten out of mental hospitals and been allowed to play with scissors again.
Oingo Boingo’s frontman Danny Elfman is best known today for his film scores, but it’s interesting to hear how he cut his musical teeth. “Only a Lad” is one of the few Boingo songs I own, and it’s so much fun to listen to. Dark, kind of subversive fun. The kind of fun I used to get from reading Uncle Shelby’s ABZ’s or watching The Twilight Zone after midnight. Come to think of it, those two things can be combined to form yet another apt description for Oingo Boingo’s music. There’s something so wonderfully weird about it.
Around the time they got really popular was also about the same time they went to heck in a hand basket. I know plenty of people who think “Weird Science” and “Dead Man’s Party” are great tunes, but those to me are kind of the hallmarks of their decline. The edges were dulled by then, the spikes worn down to dull nubs. They still needled and poked a little, but nothing ever broke the skin. That was the beauty of Oingo Boingo in the early years: you never knew when someone was going to lose an eye. And you know what they say. It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.
And then it’s just fun.