Review Summary: Do you peek at magazines filled with doggies and leather queens?
There are a number of distinctions to Only a Lad
, Oingo Boingo's debut LP, not just in the cult rock band's discography, but also in the state of music as a whole - even today, it's a distinctive and original album, and it hasn't aged a bit. Generally classed as "new wave", Oingo Boingo are pretty much unclassifiable. Like The Ramones
had done, Oingo Boingo juggle punk and pop influences, but lean distinctively, also, on performance art influence and experimental songwriting. Only a Lad
is a natural evolution of the Frank Zappa
-esque theatre troupe style Oingo Boingo had previously displayed as the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, mixing in not only the art/pop/punk influence, but very obviously, a strong influence from ska, a style leader Danny Elfman
took up because of its similarity to the percussion music he studied in Africa.
Lyrically, Only a Lad
juggles a number of different subjects - including sex ("Little Girls" and "Nasty Habits") and society, from a strongly Libertarian viewpoint, as in "Capitalism", the halfway point between punk rock and Ayn Rand, lyrically taking aim at Left-wing punks ("You're just a middle class socialist brat / from a suburban family, and you never really had to work"); for it's musical side, the band replace's punk's typical emphasis on guitar with their own emphasis on horns and keyboards; Frank Zappa and Penn Jillette would endorse this one.
The title track makes fun of the idea of misplacing blame of "bad kids" ("he didn't want to learn things / HE LIKED TO BURN THINGS!") toward society ("it's not his fault that he can't behave / society made him go astray") rather than the bratty teens (who shoot little old ladies and steal their cars) themselves; quite obviously, the people the song is taking aim at, even more so than the "Lad", are stupid ("perhaps if we're nice he'll go away"). The band also covers the Kinks' "You Really Got Me", and, again, moves the influences from the original's guitar-oriented garage rock roots to their own synthesizer and horn-based style.
This album is the best example of Oingo Boingo's schizophrenic rock style, the predecessor of later schizo rock bands like Mr. Bungle
. It wasn't their sales triumph (which would be Dead Man's Party
and the theme to John Hughes' Weird Science
), but it's their artistic triumph, an album which places high brow music like classical and avant garde in a blender with the low-brow aesthetics of pop and punk. Only a Lad
stands on its own in the world musical scheme.