30 Days: 30 Albums | Danny Elfman – So-Lo

This was an album that I had bought on LP when it had come out and I quickly ditched it in the Great Vinyl Purge; figuring [rightly] that I would get it on CD later. What I didn’t know at the time was that it would end up being 33 years later. I recall that this album was a line in the sand for my casual Oingo Boingo fandom. The first three albums on IRS/A+M Records have their charms. Then IRS switched from A+M to MCA for distribution and they found themselves on the mother label. And mother had expectations. This album was in every sense of the word an Oingo Boingo album; they just called it a Danny Elfman solo album to see if the less bizarre name might affect sales positively [it didn’t]. Does it stand up half a lifetime later?

MCA Records | US | CD | 1987 | MCAD-25051

# 25Danny Elfman: So-Lo US CD [1987]

  1. Gratitude (Short Version)
  2. Cool City
  3. Go Away
  4. Sucker For Mystery
  5. It Only Makes Me Laugh
  6. The Last Time
  7. Tough As Nails
  8. Lightning
  9. Everybody Needs

The sole single off of this one was the last great Boingo single as I reckoned. “Gratitude” also came with a luxo-demented Richard Elfman directed video with all of the perverse visual perks we had become accustomed to in Oingo Boingo’s  full-bodied music videos. The track here is labeled “short version” but the 7″ edit was over a minute shorter. The sound was a bit less ska-influenced than was traditional for Oingo Boingo by this point with a neat Fripp-metal solo by Steve Bartek; sounding like “Fashion: Pt. II” in the middle eight.

The band sounded very close to DEVO territory on “Cool City” with a grinding synth riff that was far more textural than the aurally thin Fairlight-soaked material the spudboys were neck-deep in in the fateful year of 1984. The band, as ever, were rhythmically in the deep end of the pool but the surprise drop of the music bed for an accentuated vocal performance from Elfman was still a pleasant surprise before the the stinger ending.

The complex arrangement to “Go Away” also marked this as being on the right side of the Boingo dividing line. This had been a large 8-9 man band with lots of potential for a zesty, clattering racket that they were not afraid to use in the first half of their career. They favored lots of horns and percussion mixing it up with the synths and guitars. “Sucker For Mystery” may have crossed the line a bridge too far into the synthesizer zone. It sounded more typically mid-80s with the DX7 and drum machines dominant; which is a shame since the dark lyrics definitely intrigued here.

The band touched their ska-influenced roots more powerfully on “It Only Makes Me Laugh” with a straight rocksteady beat and upbeat horns. It sounded magnificent; even though it was a rare instance of both feet in the ska genre for this decidedly prickly New Wave band. Elfman built an impressive edifice of vocal harmonies with himself here. “The Last Time” was the band with all of their interesting factors planed off. “Tough As Nails” sounded like what passed for funk in the mid-80s, but when the the real horn section kicked in it gave it the lift that it needed to put it down on the right side of the line. “Lightning” was full of the old Oingo Boingo magic with a vibrant arrangement and an infectious energy that pulled me into it straight away. Surprisingly it seemed to have less less of the negativity that this band often carried in their payload.

The sound here varied quite a bit with post-New Wave dance rock and bits of funk and ska duking it out for dominance with their quirk DNA. It was the last album with a classic Georganne Deen cover painting. It was as if Oingo Boingo were giving every potential stylistic thread a tryout here before it was too late for them. That most of it works strongly was a testament to their large talent pool. They had been on the periphery as a cult act for four years by this point and sooner or later, they would have to get some sales under their belt to stay signed. Well, the next year brought with it “Weird Science” and we all know how it turned out. The MCA era of the band following this record became quickly diminishing returns. I once had a copy of 1987’s “Boi-Ngo” and it didn’t hang around the Record Cell for too long. The less said about “The Dark At The End Of The Tunnel” the better! It was as depressing as record by this band as was conceivable. Just the clown grunge look of the final album “Boingo” in 1995 scared me way off of it. At the end of the day “So-Lo” stands, fairly proudly, as the last great album that Oingo Boingo ever made.

CONCLUSION: enjoy

 

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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One Response to 30 Days: 30 Albums | Danny Elfman – So-Lo

  1. I can add little except to say that this review is spot-on. The band did most definitely stumble after this, and while there were some notable Boingo songs yet to come, nothing with the staying power of their output to this point.

    Like

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