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Oingo Boingo - Nothing To Fear CD (album) cover

NOTHING TO FEAR

Oingo Boingo

 

Crossover Prog

4.44 | 19 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
5 stars It didn't take long at all for Danny Elfman to reconfigure his brother Richard Elfman's musical theater troupe in the late 70s into one of the most unique sounding musical outfits to have been lumped into the new wave movement that was finding massive popularity in the early part of the 80s. Danny proved to be the perfect eccentric character to nurture the artistry into completely unthinkable extremes that took the zolo quirky charm of 70s bands like Devo and Split Enz and added an entire big band sounding horn section to give it that extra oomf. On the debut self-tiled EP and the full-length "Only A Lad," Elfman not only teased out the best possible combination of punk rock, pop hooks, ska, jazz and African rhythms but also proved to be quite the accomplished composer as an entire album of compositions complemented each other perfectly and offered a diverse wealth of moods and feels within the band's new musical paradigm. The band stood out like a sore thumb which got them noticed very quickly.

While the band was not experiencing the popularity of the new wave artists that were in heavy rotation on MTV, they were quite the hit in their native Los Angeles stomping grounds where they found heavy radio play and regular live gigs. Wasting no time, the band followed up their debut full-length "Only A Lad" the following year with NOTHING TO FEAR which found the overall sound being ratcheted up a few notches in the heaviness department. On this sophomore release there are more pronounced uses of the electric guitar that are both louder and more distorted along with more liberal styles such as the occasional soloing. While Elfman spent some time in Africa learning how to play percussive instruments before the start of OINGO BOINGO, the implementation of the musical rhythms only scratched the surface and on NOTHING TO FEAR he pulled out the big guns and offered a much more dynamic percussive backdrop that was in the spirit of David Byrne's Talking Heads albums only much more dynamic.

Once again the band remained an octet with Danny Elfman belting out his eccentric vocal style as well as contributing rhythm guitar. Steve Bartek returned only this time being allowed to explore different guitar playing avenues instead of the incessant ska syncopations. Continuing their jazz-rock style, the dynamic horn section was arranged to provide the perfect counterpoint for the fast tempos and high energy spastic pace of the quirky tracks that sported Elfman's equally quirky lyrical content with tracks exploring the concepts of everything from human neurology in "Grey Matter," the hidden in plain sight world of "Insects" as well as the more mundane human experiences such as "Whole Day Off" and the titillating concept of "Wild Sex (in the Working Class). Everything on NOTHING TO FEAR is a step up, musically speaking, from "Only A Lad." Elfman's vocals are more wild and varied than ever. The tracks are more polished with a better team of mixers and sound engineers as well as the tracks being tighter and more creatively constructed. Despite the musical theater troupe having long been retired, Elfman continued the showtime themed aspects with a full zeal and commitment that utilized every possible exploration offered by the band's unique idiosyncratic sound.

NOTHING TO FEAR simply sounds more exotic than anything else that fell into the umbrella term new wave. While it clearly did have new wave attributes such as the syncopated ska rhythms derived from a punk rock beginning as well as the synthesizer rich layerings that were used as liberally as by the Human League, Duran Duran or A Flock Of Seagulls, OINGO BOINGO went the extra mile to find new sounds to encapsulate their quirky circus moodswings. NOTHING TO FEAR was the first BOINGO album to show off the band's homemade instruments which included crazy things like rumba-phones and other unique noise making devices created by Leon Schneiderman. Possibly the most amazing thing of all is that every track sounds unique and stands out from the others making NOTHING TO FEAR one of the best albums that band released in their 17 year long career. Even the album cover art screams brilliance with that cleverly crafted creature encapsulated in the brown and green surrealistic art.

NOTHING TO FEAR is the point where OINGO BOINGO began to see a more national audience latching onto their sound as they would be the opening act for diverse bands such as the punk band Fear as well as highly popular ska rock band The Police. The track "WIld Sex (In The Working Class)" would also eventually find a place in John Hughes' film "Sixteen Candles." So, yeah their sound was rowdy and raw enough to capture the hearts of the punk crowds, synthesizer laden enough for the burgeoning new wavers and sophisticated enough to even capture the hearts of the more progressive oriented music world as they indulged in a unique amalgamation of exotic percussion, a three-piece horn section all wrapped up in unconventional scales, harmonies and musical presentation. And to top it off, they also implemented strange surreal artistic presentation both live and on their album covers. OINGO BOINGO was one of a kind and NOTHING TO FEAR has to be the absolute pinnacle of their early glory years where all the elements were perfectly balanced to create one of the ultimate classics of 80s new wave. Personally it's a toss up between this one and the debut. They both have strengths and weaknesses so i'll just call it a tie and declare this a brilliant masterpiece as well.

siLLy puPPy | 5/5 |

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