Mike Bacich

GUEST REVIEW: Oingo Boingo – Dead Man’s Party (1985) – Holen’s Halloween Extravaganza

OINGO BOINGO – Dead Man’s Party (1985 MCA)

Welcome to Holen’s Halloween Extravaganza year two. This month I’ll being reviewing some spooky stuff leading up to the big day. What day? It’s Halloween! That’s why it’s called Holen’s Halloween Extravaganza. Do try to keep up!!! Today I’ve got an album full of dead men, parties, and a combination of the two. I’m already pissing my pants in fear just typing about it. Oh God, that’s warm.

Hey, I bet you’ve heard a Danny Elfman score. Maybe even a plethora of scores that fit that descriptor. But did you know this dude was the lead singer of rock band Oingo Boingo? You did? Well I’m so sorry that I tried to teach you something new Mr. Smartypants! Or is that Mrs. Smartypants, or Ms. Smartypants? This is an inclusive review. Anyway, in 1985 the Elf Man and company released Dead Man’s Party, their most commercially successful album, and one of their most eclectic. As Chris Farley would say, this is some kickass shit.

For such a commercial album, it sure is stylistically diverse, and incredibly strange. One of the highest compliments you could pay this group is to say that every song sounds like them, but no two songs sound alike. This is a group with many first-rate musicians, including a brass section. How many rock bands have a brass section? What we have on this album is a strange blend of many influences that makes a surprisingly delicious smoothie. Imagine rock, pop, dance music, soul, ‘60s surfer music, circus music, musical theater, and film score sprinkles all seamless blended in a digestible package. You’ve got Dead Man’s Party. You may be thinking to yourself, ‘Gee whiz! These folks sound a lot like Mr. Bungle.’ And you’d be right, as I’m convinced that Mr. Bungle’s entire career is based on the Oingo Boingo song here entitled “No One Lives Forever”.

I mean come on, Patton. Did you really think no one would notice just because you made it more demented and less commercial? Silly Patton. Go sing your Nestles songs. While Mike is off singing about chocolate, allow me to tell you about the topic at hand. This whole album is incredibly consistent, from the paranoid theatrical rock romp “Just Another Day” (a personal favorite), to the get down on the dance floor spooky staple from Back to School “Dead Man’s Party”, to the cowboy ‘80s pop love song “Stay”. This is an album where every song is crammed full of as many ideas as possible, while somehow sticking to a traditional pop format with great melodies from the golden voiced, red headed front-man. I’ve found that listening to normal music directly after this album is incredibly hard, just because normal stuff seems so simplistic in nature after the “everything and the kitchen sink” bombast of Oingo Boingo. Another favorite is “Help Me”, which sounds like U2 fucked The Police and was raised by Motown music from the ‘60s, with just a pinch of church gospel.

None of these contrasting influences are jarring. Elfman has a knack for working them in with a grace and subtlety that throws a veil over his nihilistic dark humor. These songs sound great on the radio, but there’s something off about them, something strange going on underneath the surface, a tension, exuberance. You can hear traces of his future days as a composer here, and they make his ability to compact that talent into a catchy three minute rock song even more impressive. Filler is nowhere to be found, every song is clearly crafted with an incredible amount of care and attention. While not every song is completely to my tastes, I’d say 8.5/9 are winners that make me want to move and groove, cry, sweat, and cower. This is music that plays great in the background, but is so much more rewarding upon attempting to dissect every nuance, every nook and cranny in this jam packed record.

If you’ve ever seen them in concert, or a concert video, you’ll know they throw one hell of a party. So why not make your next party a dead man’s party? Sleep with this CD nestled tight in your arms this holiday season. Happy October all you people. Holen’s back.


I’m not reviewing this movie.  I’m off to change clothes. I’ve still got piss in my pants.

4.5/5 Elf Men