Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Oingo Boingo - Good For Your Soul

July of 1983 brought out Good For Your Soul, the third studio album from Oingo Boingo. It continued the momentum from the earlier offerings, charting at number 144 on the US Billboard Hot 200. It was band’s last album on the A&M Records label and also the last album, for awhile, to feature Kerry Hatch on bass and Richard Gibbs on keyboards.

Side one begins with the existential question “Who Do You Want to Be”. I like the rousing guitars (Danny Elfman, Steve Bartek and Hatch) and horns (Sam “Sluggo” Phipps, Leon Schneiderman and Dale Turner) at the start, driven along by the pulse-pounding beats of the drums (Johnny “Vatos” Hernandez). It really kicks this record off on a high energy note.

The title track “Good For Your Soul” follows. It continues along the introspective, self-analysis theme from the last track. The synth and keyboard hooks (from Hatch and Gibbs) on the chorus are a favorite part of mine on this one.

The avid reader in me really likes “No Spill Blood”, a track inspired by the H.G. Wells’ novel The Island of Dr. Moreau and the 1932 film adaptation Island of Lost Souls. I often find myself chanting along with the guys on this dark and ominous tune.

The primitive, tribal instrumental “Cry of the Vatos” spotlights Hernandez’s percussion prowess.

“Fill the Void” closes out the side with a touch of reggae.

The B-side to the album‘s single was “Sweat”. This rapid-fire song tells of a young man with a nervous condition that causes him to perspire profusely. Jimmy Wood provides the harmonica solo here. One of the guitar riffs has an ominous, old-time Western vibe; a few years later on Boingo Alive album the band released a full country-fied version of the song called "Country Sweat" that played up that aspect.

Side two opens with “Nothing Bad Ever Happens”. It addresses apathy and indifference as a man notes, with little concern, the bad things that are happening to others around him.

“Wake Up (It’s 1984)” was released as a single from the album. It too was inspired by literature - in this case George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. The song, with its warning message of "Big Brother is watching", was very timely given that the album was released less than six months prior to the infamous titled year.

“Dead or Alive” tells of a paranoid man who believes he is being stalked by some kind of creature. Everywhere he turns he thinks he sees something out of the corner of his eye. The anxiousness of the chorus really adds to the mood of the song.

“Pictures of You” is a very haunting tune. The lyrics tell of a man who is plagued at night by the ghostly image of his deceased bride.

“Little Guns” is a mocking, sarcastic commentary on wars which can be started by the most insignificant and unlikely of sources.

I had become an Oingo Boingo fan a few years earlier, thanks to listening to the local college radio station during high school. Their thought-provoking party music appealed to this particular geek quite a bit. So, in the summer of 1983, I picked up a copy of Good For Your Soul on vinyl and, of course, enjoyed it a lot. In 2009, I picked up a copy on CD to add it back into my music collection and have listened to it numerous times since. It is still a favorite.

Looking for more Boingo reviews? Check out these:

- For the band’s 1981 full length debut album Only A Lad, click here.

- For 1982’s Nothing To Fear, click here.

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