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Oingo Boingo

Crossover Prog

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Oingo Boingo Only a Lad album cover
3.95 | 34 ratings | 4 reviews | 35% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1981

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Little Girls (3:43)
2. Perfect System (3:46)
3. On the Outside (3:51)
4. Capitalism (3:40)
5. You Really Got Me (4:37)
6. Only a Lad (3:57)
7. What You See (3:55)
8. Controller (3:26)
9. Imposter (3:00)
10. Nasty Habits (4:08)

Total Time 38:03

Line-up / Musicians

- Danny Elfman / lead vocals, rhythm guitar, composer
- Steve Bartek / lead guitar, horn arrangements
- Richard Gibbs / keyboards, trombone
- Leon Schniederman / baritone saxophone
- Sam "Sluggo" Phipps / tenor saxophone
- Dale Turner / trumpet
- Kerry Hatch / bass, vocals
- Johnny "Vatos" Hernandez / drums

Releases information

Artwork: Chris Hopkins

LP A&M Records - SP-4863 (1981, US)

CD A&M Records - CD 3250 (1987, US)

Thanks to Evolver for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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OINGO BOINGO Only a Lad ratings distribution

(34 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(35%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(32%)
Good, but non-essential (18%)
Collectors/fans only (9%)
Poor. Only for completionists (6%)

OINGO BOINGO Only a Lad reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Pretty red roses

Wet puppy noses

Men with rubber hoses is more like it

Oingo Boingo is in the ProgArchives? I'm happy to say it is so. With this, the first full album by this band, fronted by Danny Elfman (now more famous for his work on The Simpsons, just about every Tim Burton movie, and and an endless number of other films and TV shows), shows why they belong here.

Evolving out of a circus theater group called The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, this band began it's recording career playing an energetic mix of new wave, ska and punk. But the theater sound permeates the sound. The horns are brash and very unusual. They pepper the music by often playing circus type themes around the uptempo beats. And the rhythms can be odd as well. Elfman often adds and subtracts beats from measures of songs, giving his poop style more of an underlying prog feel.

The music, while often bouncy and dancable, is full of darkness as well. Elfman, with the help of guitarist Steve Bartek (who continues to work with Elfman on film music), often uses odd chord structures to keep the sound just a little off kilter, which is fitting, as his lyrics usually explore the underside of contemporary society.

Perversion, death, alienation, are just a few of the subjects sung about on the album. The most overtly progressive song on the album, Nasty Habits, is an ode to what goes on behind closed doors. Elfman joyously sings of the behaviors that people may want to keep to themselves, while the band keeps up a three ring circus of melodious deviance.

And this isn't even their best album.

Review by siLLy puPPy
5 stars After taking the reigns from his brother Richard Elfman who decided to move on from his musical vision, a young Danny Elfman steered the then named "The Mystic Knights Of The Oingo Boingo" (a fictional secret society on the TV series "Amos 'n' Andy") to a more new wave pop oriented rock band and thus shortening the name to the more famous OINGO BOINGO. After gaining significant attention with a demo that became their first EP, the band created a full-fledged album that emerged in 1981. ONLY A LAD is the final step in shifting the band's previous incarnation of a theatrical cabaret band into an 80s progressively minded new wave meets ska entity that even to this day sounds as good as the first time I heard this little sucka.

OINGO BOINGO simply put occupies a musical niche like no other. Danny Elfman's brilliance is on full display here signifying a major talent emerging into the world but unlike the more controlled efforts of future releases, this release shows an Elfman unrestrained and out to prove himself. That he does and quite well may I add. What we have here is an energy conducive with the circus cabaret scene married with a newly found ska fetish mixed with new wave. The songwriting on this debut album is spectacular combining all of the aforementioned with progressive soundtrack elements that really make this an exciting album. Dealing with dark and perversely themed topics that decorate the progressively composed time signatures and catchy melodies really adds up to an addictive sound. Danny tops it off with some extremely energetically wailed vocals that dominate the soundscape.

I really love every track on this debut album. OINGO BOINGO came from nowhere and although they may bring other new wavers like Devo to mind, the fact is OINGO BOINGO was much more sophisticated and elaborate in their sound and songwriting. They were an octet at this point and on top of the new wave beat, rhythms and instrumentation lies a formidable horn section. Some of my absolute favorite BOINGO tracks are on this debut release. I am googoo gaagaa over "Little Girls," "Perfect World," "On The Outside," the title track, "Controller," "Nasty Habits" and perhaps the best Kinks cover i've heard in "You Really Got Me" (Sorry Van Halen). A very strong debut with more Boingolisciousness to come on many future releases but this one remains one of my absolute faves.

Review by Kempokid
4 stars The process of coming to find this band was a pretty great one. Initially I had heard of them through apparently being quite an influence on 'Mr. Bungle', so I naturally went to check them out, only to become extremely excited once I realised that it was fronted by Danny Elfman. I then realised what a wild ride it would be from the moment I listened to 'Little Girls'. While this music is mostly simplistic and has little to do with prog for the most part, there are definitely some really great things about this album, especially the overall sound having a strong circusy feel to it that I can definitely relate to 'Mr. Bungle' and just Mike Patton's antics in general. The album is also very strong from a melodic standpoint, with each song being built around a couple of riffs and melodies only, but each of them being relentlessly catchy and fun. The final thing that I really love is the lyrical content, having a particular biting satire to many of the songs, along with having a similar sort of perversion or dark edge to their music that could be found in Patton's work.

'Little Girls' starts off the album in a really great way, being a way of instantly establishing the weirdness of the band, contrasting really fun, catchy synthpop melodies with some incredibly unsettling lyrics. This is definitely one of those songs that will worm its way into your head and pop up at the most inopportune times, but I still can't deny that it is really fun to listen to. 'Perfect System' is great as well, having a cool, bouncy bassline with some nice horn arrangements. The next couple of songs continue this pattern of being incredibly fun songs with groovy basslines and some really wild vocal delivery that jumps around a lot. 'You Really Got Me' is a really great 'Kinks' cover that easily beats out the wonderful 'Van Halen' version, along with the original version in my opinion. In general, 'Oingo Boingo' seems to have a knack for making covers, as can also be seen later down the line with the excellent cover of 'The Beatles'' 'I Am The Walrus'. I really love the heavily altered backing vocals especially. The title track is definitely one of my favourite songs on the album, with the first couple of times giving me a genuine chuckle in terms of how funny I found the lyrics. This is combined with it being by far my favourite song on the album from a melodic standpoint, along with being one of the most dynamic offerings, jumping between many different riffs and bridges, telling a whole story within the 4 minutes the song goes for, along with having a hook so catchy that it approaches being maddening. Past this point, the album goes back to being generally highly enjoyable, although at this point there is definitely the knowledge that the album sounds quite similar on the whole. The final song, 'Nasty Habits' is definitely another massive high point, with some more absurd, perverse lyrics, but also has a really great intensity and sense of urgency to it.

All in all, I really enjoy this album, it's catchy and fun, with a really great groove present throughout. While there are still signs of some immaturity and greenness in areas, particularly when talking about how similar some songs sound to one another, this is nonetheless a great debut.

Best Songs: Little Girls, Only A Lad, Nasty Habits

Weakest Songs: Controller

Verdict: Despite some cheesiness in terms of songwriting and instrumentation, particularly in synth heavy sections, this album is a lot of fun and really shows off Danny Elfman's compositional talent. I'd highly recommend giving it a listen.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars OINGO BOINGO and in particular Danny Elfman have made quite a career for themselves with their high energy, humour filled music. I mean if you name your band OINGO BOINGO I'm thinking you don't really care if people take you seriously or not. The album's title, the cover art, this is all about having fun and doing it at a high rate of speed. Ten songs over 38 minutes as we get songs between 3 and 4 1/2 minutes and a lot of silliness.

This really is a niche style of music in my opinion. I know Danny has been very successful with his musical work with The Simpsons and Tim Burton movies in particular, but also their big hit "Weird Science" from the movie of the same name made them some cash. Some mention that this is proggy New Wave music for lack of a better description and I thought maybe I'd like this based on being in my 20's when New Wave was all over the radio and I did like some of it. This not so much, although I tried.

The vocals are an acquired taste for me, the lyrics too. I feel this is for young people who like the punk mantra of do it as fast as you can for as short a time as you can and it doesn't really matter if you can play or not it's about the attitude. Okay first off these guys can play, it's more about other multiple things that bother me on every track. There are four guys playing horns and they blast us, not my thing. And it's the lead guitarist of this 8 piece band who did the horn arrangements surprisingly. They cover THE KINKS "You Really Got Me" and please give me the VAN HALEN's rendition or the original. The processed vocals on that one early turn me off right away. I was reminded of the B-52's on "Perfect System" mostly the chorus. Rough vocals on the closer "Nasty Habits" singing about what goes on behind closed doors.

I have two other albums by this band that I prefer, this is a low 3 stars.

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