Oingo Boingo never dies
Willoughby Thom | Friday, April 3, 2020
Oingo Boingo is a name you should know, and if you don’t, you’ll know it quite well by the end of this article.
Oingo Boingo — one of my favorite bands of all time — was a Los Angeles new wave band active between 1979 and 1995. They were very popular on the West Coast, specifically Southern California, largely because of their frontman Danny Elfman, who later became a famous film composer. But before Elfman’s fame in the film industry, he was the eccentric singer and songwriter of Oingo Boingo.
The band originated from the surrealist street theatre troupe, The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, which Eflman was a part of along with his brother Richard Elfman. In 1979, Danny broke away from the circus act to create a rock band under a similar name, Oingo Boingo, and a year later the band released their first self-titled EP, which featured the songs “Only a Lad,” “Violent Love,” “Ain’t This the Life” and “I’m So Bad.” Following their EP, the band put out an album every year until their retirement in 1995.
Oingo Boingo is well known for their use of quick riffs, synths, a lively brass section and unique drums, creating a sound that is ominous, powerful and surreal. Their fascination with death and the afterlife separates them from mainstream new wave bands. Elfman’s often pessimistic and realistic look on life develops into songs that can often be described as uncomfortable, but with the quickness and power of each track and the group’s experimental nature, the listener is often unaffected by a song’s serious undertones.
The best way to get to know their music is by looking at their early albums and lively performances, so I have compiled the guide below to help you get to know and fall in love with one of the greatest new wave bands of all time.
“Only A Lad” (1981)
Favorite Songs: “On the Outside,” “Capitalism,” “Only a Lad,” “Controlle” and “Imposter”
“Nothing to Fear” (1982)
Favorite Songs: “Grey Matter,” “Private Life,” “Whole Day Off,” “Nothing to Fear (but Fear Itself)” and “Reptiles and Samurai”
“Good For Your Soul” (1983)
Favorite Songs: “Who Do You Want to Be,” “No Spill Blood,” “Fill the Void,” “Sweat,” “Nothing Bad Even Happens to Me” and “Little Guns”
Note: I prefer the country version of “Sweat” from 1998’s “Boingo Alive.”
Due to conflicts with their record company, IRS Records, the band could not put out their record in 1984 under their own name. After switching over to MCA Records, they put out “So-Lo,” which they marketed as Danny Elfman’s solo record, but was in actuality a more laid-back, electronic Oingo Boingo record.
Favorite songs: “Gratitude,” “Cool City,” “Sucker for Mystery” and “Tough as Nails”
“Dead Man’s Party” (1985)
Favorite Songs: “Dead Man’s Party,” “No One Lives Forever” and “Stay”
In my opinion, anything following “Dead Man’s Party” isn’t considered “true” Oingo Boingo — especially since they rebranded themselves as “Boi-Ngo.” I recommend diving deep into the first five albums listed here. This guide to Oingo Boingo will not only help distract you from the craziness of today’s world, but also turn you into a fan — just like me.