Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Oingo Boingo - Dead Man's Party

Today (October 28th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Dead Man's Party, the fifth studio album from Oingo Boingo. This 1985 release spent sixteen weeks on the US Billboard Album chart, peaking at number 98.

Side one begins with "Just Another Day", which was used in the 1986 Rodney Dangerfield comedy Back to School. As the second single, it stalled at number 85 on the US Billboard Hot 100. From the opening underlying plink-plink-plink percussion to the extending of certain lyrical syllables by Danny Elfman, this song pulls me right in and refuses to let go. When I hear it, I know it will hardly be just another day; it will be a good day.

The title track is next. "Dead Man's Party" was the third single from the album; Oingo Boingo appeared in Back to School to perform the song which was featured also on the film's soundtrack. The lyrics make a reference to a turn-of-the-century short story by E.F. Benson entitled "The Bus-Conductor" (with the line "there's a chauffer coming to my door/he says there's room for maybe just one more"). This song is a highlight of my Halloween playlist as it is fun, danceable and macabre all at the same time.

"Heard Somebody Cry" keeps the energy level going with another up-tempo tune. At this point, the album was already earning its "party" designation.

"No One Lives Forever" appeared in two films: 1986's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and 1997's Casper: A Spirited Beginning. This one has a pounding, ominous urgency to it as if it came from Hades itself. Even the chorus vocals have a haunting ring to them.

Side two starts with "Stay", a song that was featured in the director's cut of the 2001 sci-fi dramma Donnie Darko. As with all Oingo Boingo songs, I find the lyrics to this one very fascinating. Coming from any other band, you would be left scratching your head. But from these California rockers, it just all makes perfect sense.

The cautionary tale "Fool's Paradise" is up next.

"Help Me" is an impassioned plea for assistance with a very catchy chorus.

"Same Man I Was Before" is a rousing song about seeking redemption.

The album closer "Weird Science" is the title song from the 1985 John Hughes teen sci-fi comedy which starred Anthony Michael Hall, Ilan Mitchell-Smith and Kelly LeBrock. The title actually comes from the 1950's EC Comics science fiction anthology tile. As the lead single, it rose to number 45 on the US Billboard Hot 100. The song and the movie both came out a few months earlier, and I was an instant fan of both. The extended dance version even samples LeBrock's first line of dialogue ("what would you little maniacs like to do first?"). This song was the reason I first snapped up this record. It remained a party favorite through out much of my junior year of college.

Back in 1985, while still on my co-op in New Jersey, I picked up a copy of Dead Man's Party on cassette the week it was released and played the heck out of it. I was very into the band at the time. When the 90's rolled around, I replaced that cassette copy with a CD. To this day the album remains one of my favorites from that year.

For more from Oingo Boingo, click here.


Anonymous said...

Great blog! I love "Weird Science"!

Martin Maenza said...

Amanda, thanks. I appreciate hearing from my readers.

HERC said...

Once again, we seem to share the same sentiments towards an album though I will say I have never ever seen Back To School - its on a short list with that movie about people pretending to blue aliens and the one where Leo runs his boat into an iceberg of movies I don't plan on ever viewing.

I didn't buy it immediately upon release but was treated to listening to it four nights a week on repeat by my supervisor when I worked overnight stocking shifts at Target back then. General Public and Oingo Boingo were her jams.

"Just Another Day" is definitely my favorite song on the album.