In Three Songs: Oingo Boingo
You might not have directly sought out Oingo Boingo before now. But you might not be aware that you’ve probably been listening to their lead singer for decades- if you’ve ever seen The Simpsons, Desperate Housewives, Edward Sisscorhands, Nightmare Before Christmas, Mars Attacks!, Burton’s Batman films, you’re acquainted with the work of lead singer Danny Elfman (who I’m lead to believe some of us saw live performing for the first time in decades at the Royal Albert Hall last October, but who’s to say. Actually, I am. I did. It was amazing. Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter turned up. I cried a bit. Then I split lemonade all over my best friend). The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo-later shortened to Oingo Boingo- pretty much sum up all the best things about the eighties for me, maudlin pop (read: Joy Division) aside. Innovative, wildly good fun, hard to categorize and intensely musically talented. Without further ado, let me get started on our inaugural edition of In Three Songs.
Track One: Weird Science
Why DON’T people understand my intentions? The theme track from the movie of the same name, nothing about this song, it’s conception, or this magnificent video could be more eighties. But listen to how that music is constructed; there’s some exemplary bass work, Elfman’s signature vocal shenanigans, and an irresistibly catchy brass section all chucked together into three minutes of what could well have been just a throwaway pop song. And damn, I forgot that it was this video that gave me that fetish for pointy ginger men. Which I suppose is a much funnier statement when you’ve met my pointy, ginger boyfriend.
Track Two: Grey Matter
Boingo were also big on subversion. You only need to listen to something like Capitalism (“You’re just a middle-class socialist brat/From a suburban family, and you never really had to work…Your mouth is bigger than your entire brain”) or Only a Lad (which rejects the excuse that society is entirely to blame for criminals) to know that. For me, Grey Matter is their finest example of that, calling upon listeners to use whatever is inside their head to question everything their being told to do. A brand new concept? Nope, but Elfman delivers it with such honesty and venom-never more so than in this performance-you’ll believe it is. And I am 100% up for the duo balophones. Again, look at that musicality, how tightly the eight-piece (I think) band plays together, and how spot-on those vocal harmonies are.
Track Three: Controller
Just insanely good fun. This video is from their farewell gig, a three-hour spectacular that I would sell my hair to have seen live, and the first stop on the If-I-Ever-Get-a-Tardis tour (we all have them). Energetic, chaotic yet precise, and full of the sense of joviality and insanity that earned them their rightly-legendary status. Yes, please.
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