9 Songs

EDITORS’ NOTES

In an ironic twist suitable to such a literate and contrarian group, Oingo Boingo’s concept album about death turned out to be a rebirth for the long-running Los Angeles outfit. With a new label and a new production style, Dead Man’s Party seamlessly integrates Danny Elfman’s eccentric musical concepts and his band’s natural ability to write danceable rock music. That blend is evident on the album’s trifecta of hits: “Just Another Day,” “Weird Science," and the stunning title track. The band didn’t smooth out its beloved idiosyncrasies to win popular success. Instead, Boingo embedded its quirks in songs that were so tightly crafted and catchy and propulsive that the mainstream couldn’t ignore it. Whether you liked rock or new wave or club music, Dead Man’s Party had something to fit your tastes. Between the big hits are several overlooked gems, including “Heard Somebody Cry” (a percolating funk tune to match “Weird Science”) and “Help Me” (a '60s R&B rave-up conveyed with a splash of '80s neon).

EDITORS’ NOTES

In an ironic twist suitable to such a literate and contrarian group, Oingo Boingo’s concept album about death turned out to be a rebirth for the long-running Los Angeles outfit. With a new label and a new production style, Dead Man’s Party seamlessly integrates Danny Elfman’s eccentric musical concepts and his band’s natural ability to write danceable rock music. That blend is evident on the album’s trifecta of hits: “Just Another Day,” “Weird Science," and the stunning title track. The band didn’t smooth out its beloved idiosyncrasies to win popular success. Instead, Boingo embedded its quirks in songs that were so tightly crafted and catchy and propulsive that the mainstream couldn’t ignore it. Whether you liked rock or new wave or club music, Dead Man’s Party had something to fit your tastes. Between the big hits are several overlooked gems, including “Heard Somebody Cry” (a percolating funk tune to match “Weird Science”) and “Help Me” (a '60s R&B rave-up conveyed with a splash of '80s neon).

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5

104 Ratings

Oingo Boingo - Possessed by Genius

xcliff,

First - ignore the official canned review above - whoever wrote it is obviously a clueless wonder. Context - Oingo Bingo at this time (1986) ruled in LA and San Francisco. Their live shows were incrediable - the band was superb, the crowds ecstatic, and the mosh pits relentless. When Danny Elfman began his werewolf howl at the beginning of "No One Lives Forever" the concert floor would erupt in a frenzy - everyone posessed by one of the great songs of midnight madness. This song is still one that can cast a spell of madness on a party. Danny Elfman was and still is a genius at production and arrangement (again ignore the fool in the review who wrote that critics dismissed Oingo Boingo's "wacky" production - yeah right, that's why Elfman was hired to do dozens and dozens of big Hollywood sound tracks cause he was so wacky and the critics hated him - I don't think so!). With this album the band really took off and found their style. The horns are fantastic, the rhythms work of genius and the lyrics sophisticated: "It's a dead man's party. Who could ask for more? Everybody's coming leave your body at the door. Leave your body and soul at the door." "Stay" is one of the band's greatest love songs - aching and wanting something to return that is going out the door. Wierd Science still holds up. A few of the songs forgettable (Heard Somebody Cry and Help Me), but overall an excellant album with some of Oingo Boingos best material.

The genius that is Oingo Boingo does not reach its peak here

Change Over Time,

Don’t get me wrong here – I love Oingo Boingo. Let me put it this way – I have over 10,000 songs in my iTunes library (you’re not misreading that, I did say ten thousand), and all of the Oingo Boingo discography reigns at the very top of this monstrous library. Oingo Boingo is my favorite band of all time. That being said, this is my least favorite album. But wait! Please, dear reader, don’t skip the rest of this review. It’s very important to me that you understand my point here. Let me put it this way – the version of the song “Dead Man’s Party” that became famous, that made it to all of the greatest hits, that was performed at their farewell concerts – is found not on this album, but rather on Boingo Alive. The same exact thing can be said for the song “No One Lives Forever,” which sounds here like a soprano sax and synthesizer nightmare. My point being? I guess what I’m trying to get at here is that some of the songs on here that you love most – “Dead Man’s Party,” “No One Lives Forever” – can be found in their prime form on the “live-in-the-studio” Boingo Alive. If you want to give this album a listen, or buy these versions of “Just Another Day” and “Stay,” you have my blessing. The only thing that matters is that you, the listener, know that this is in fact not Boingo’s best material, and is hardly representative of the band that Oingo Boingo truly is on any other album, stylistic changes or no. Thank you.

About Oingo Boingo

Although Oingo Boingo was often compared to Devo throughout their career (due to both bands' affinity for quirky new wave, goofy stage acts, and most obviously, peculiar yet intriguing band names), Oingo Boingo never obtained the mainstream success that Devo did. But the band did manage to obtain a large and devoted fan base, especially in their hometown of Los Angeles, CA. Oingo Boingo started not as a traditional group per se, as they were originally put together in the '70s by movie director Richard Elfman, who needed music for a whacked-out, John Waters-esque flick he was working on, called Forbidden Zone. Enlisting his younger brother Danny Elfman (vocals, guitar), Steve Bartek (guitar), and Johnny "Vatos" Hernandez (drums), the group originally went by the name Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo before shortening it to Oingo Boingo. Tired of sitting around and waiting for the movie's completion, the group began playing out in the L.A. area, where they built a substantial following with the punk/new wave set (as their lineup would often multiply for performances). But Oingo Boingo had a step or two ahead of the local bands, both musically and visually, as Danny Elfman had spent several years in France working with a theater group and studying orchestra, which reflected in Oingo Boingo's hodgepodge of styles.

The soundtrack to Forbidden Zone was finally issued in 1980, which proved to be a wild, musical roller coaster ride and gave Oingo Boingo their first appearance on record. But by the time a four-track release, 10 Inch EP, was issued the same year (on IRS Records), the group had focused their sound and approach drastically. A recording contract with A&M Records followed shortly thereafter, resulting in some of the early '80s finest new wave releases, 1981's Only a Lad (whose title track received plenty of airplay on the influential L.A. rock radio station KROQ), 1982's Nothing to Fear, and 1983's Good for Your Soul, the latter of which spawned a popular early MTV video hit for "Nothing Bad Ever Happens." Like their live shows, Oingo Boingo's recordings featured a hefty amount of additional members lending a hand, but despite it all, Danny Elfman remained the group's leader and focal point (Elfman even found the time to issue a solo album, So Lo, in 1984). A switch to MCA immediately paid off for the group, as they scored the biggest hit of their career with 1985's Dead Man's Party (eventually earning gold certification in the U.S.), made a cameo appearance in the hit Rodney Dangerfield comedy Back to School, and scored a moderate hit with the theme song to John Hughes' teen comedy Weird Science. But despite their commercial success, Oingo Boingo was unable to sustain it, as such further releases as 1987's Boi-ngo, 1988's Boingo Alive, 1990's Dark at the End of the Tunnel, and 1994's Boingo failed to storm the charts, yet managed to retain the group's cult following.

But during the mid- to late '80s, Elfman struck up a friendship with director Tim Burton and began contributing music to Burton-directed movies on a regular basis, first with the major comedy hit Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, and then later Beetlejuice, Big Top Pee Wee, Batman, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Mars Attacks!, Sleepy Hollow, and the remake of Planet of the Apes, among others. In return, Elfman became one of Hollywood's most in-demand film composers, providing music for countless films and TV programs (receiving Grammy, Golden Globe, Emmy, and Oscar nominations for his work). With Elfman primarily focusing on film composing by this point, Oingo Boingo was laid to rest in 1995 after a farewell performance at L.A.'s Universal Amphitheatre, which was issued a year later as a CD and video, appropriately titled Farewell. A pair of Oingo Boingo collections surfaced during the '90s, 1992's Best O' Boingo and 1999's double-disc Anthology, as were a pair of anthologies of Elfman's film scores: 1990's Music for a Darkened Theater, Vol. 1: Film & Television Music and 1996's Music for a Darkened Theater, Vol. 2: Film & Television Music. ~ Greg Prato

  • ORIGIN
    Los Angeles, CA
  • FORMED
    1977

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