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August 15, 1981 - Image 7

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Michigan Daily, 1981-08-15

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Arts

The Michigan Daily

Saturday, August 15, 1981

Page 7

Oingo Boingo
Oingo Boingo-'Only a Lad' (A&M)-This record, Oingo Boingo's first album
attempt, is typical of much of today's good pop music: It's fun enough that you
can bop to it, but you'll never hear it on the radio. It contains ten highly craf-
ted-if still highly derivative-pop songs in the technopop style of XTC. With
vocalist Danny Elfman energetically leading the way, the band moves
smoothly through each of the songs.
If anything, they are too smooth. Elfman's often erratic vocal inflec-
tions-nicely combining Buddy Holly's hiccups with David Byrne's
paranoia-are in need of more than a tight rhythm backing. Occasionally he
gets the boost needed, as in the song "On the Outside," in which a delightfully
spontaneous sax break is justified by its incongruity to the rest of the song. But
such moments are sadly few.
RATHER THAN solo instrumentation, the emphasis lies on Elfman alter-
nately screaming, crooning, and spitting out exclamations. And he does this ef-
fectively, considering the often predictable lyrics. The most curious lyrical tid-
bits on the album are those that seem to be aiming for a Moral Majority
audience. The most memorable song, "Capitalism," begins "There's nothing
wrong with capitalism . . ." and continues by berating those who "criticize with
plenty of vigor":
You're just a middle-class socialist brat
From a suburban family and you never really had to work
They use similar reasoning in the title song, a philippic on a "juvenile
gangster" who is repeatedly acquitted because "society made him go astray."
Just so the listener won't miss the point, the song ends with an exclamatory "I
hope you fry!" directed towards the "lad." You probably won't agree with
their opinions but at least they have better conversational potential than rock
lobsters and cars.
The record also contains a nice attempt at covering "You Really Got Me,"
but the hypnotic effect they are striving for does not catch on and the song tends
toward monotony. But if you've already begun dancing, you won't notice. This is
characteristic of most of Only a Lad, certain parts may tend to slip off, but the
beat still goes on. -Tony Corbeill

The Pretenders
'Pretenders 11' (Sire) What this album does is establish Chrissie Hynde as the
first woman to beat the Paul Rodgers and Robert Plants of rock at their own
game. Much of this record unveils a female version of macho rock that more
than equals the sonic impact of heavy metal without sacrificing musical in-
novation.
Though rooted ina blues-based rock tradition, The Pretenders are not afraid
of trying more esoteric metersorproduction techniques. Not only are they more
open-minded musically, Hynde's lyrics possess the rarest commodity in "hard
rock": intelligence.
WHEN WAS THE last time sexual insinuations in a rock song didn't insult
your intelligence? When was the last time that it was actually exciting? To me,
this whole school has been more or less an embarrassment for years, but on
Pretenders II, Hynde and company make it all seem new again.
Songs like "The Adultress" or "Bad Boys Get Spanked," though sexually ex-
plicit, come off sounding simply honest, without the usual braggart's stance.
Even the played out theme of life on the road is expressed in "Pack it Up" with
such a whimsical candor that one forgets all the years of cliches.
And, of course, almost every song works as pure dance music. "Message of
Love" recreates heavy metal as soul music, and "Louie Louie" (not the famous
sixties hit) with its frantic beat and Memphis horns is the perfect rocker to end
a record.
So what we have here is simply the best record of the year. If I were pressed
to criticize it I could only say that it should have been a two-record set. We'll
have to wait until The Pretenders appear this Tuesday and Wednesday at Royal
Oak Music Theater in Detroit to see if they can also put on the best concert of
the year. -Ken Feldman
WHATARE YOU WAITING FOR
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