Top 10 Bands You Ought To Be Ashamed You Don’t Know: Part 4 of 4

Oingo Boingo
#1 Oingo Boingo

The Top 10 Bands You Ought To Be Ashamed You Don’t Know (Or Know Better)

#10 Dramarama

Dramarama’s angsty romance anthem “Anything, Anything (I’ll Give You)” broke on KROQ in 1985, putting the New Jersey rock outfit on the map and then drawing them out to Los Angeles. The song works largely because John Easdale‘s ragged tenor resonates with something broken in all of us. Dramarama had a few other charting singles, including their ode to gen-x confusion “Haven’t Got A Clue” and environmental protest song “What Are We Gonna Do” from 1991’s Vinyl; but their catalog runs deeper than that. As a teenager, I was drawn in and inspired by the palpable despair in ballads like “Train Going Backwards” and “Emerald City.” If, like mine, your inner teen miscreant still rears its head now and again, this is a band worth digging back into.

Gateway track: Everybody Dies
Catalog: iTunes, Amazon

# 2 Trespassers William

I could write an entire entry on the voice of Anna-Lynne Williams alone- and since Trespassers William officially disbanded this year, perhaps I will someday soon. But for now, I’m thrilled to introduce you to a band whose music has comforted and inspired me for almost a decade. If they had a hit, it was probably “Lie In The Sound”, which was featured on the One Tree Hill Soundtrack, but TW was never about hits. Anna Lynne’s songs are poems, exploding like ice, driving cold splinters of recognition directly into your heart. Her voice simultaneously begs and defies comparison. Sarah McLachlan? Not quite right. Beth Orton? Sort of. There’s a clarity and a resigned sadness to her sweet mezzo that makes you wish it’s you she pines for. Back that with the dripping echoscape of Matt Brown‘s telecasters and production genius, and you have a unique, sad, beautiful catalog that will soothe sleepless nights and comfort terrible loss.

Gateway track: Lie In The Sound
Catalog: iTunes, Amazon

#1 Oingo Boingo

I’m so passionate about Oingo Boingo that I find it difficult to begin this paragraph. What I want to do instead is reach inside your brain and rewrite what you think you know about the band that brought you “Dead Man’s Party” and “Weird Science.” I want to soothe your suicidal teenaged heart by transporting you back to 1990 and playing you “Out of Control” (from Dark At The End of the Tunnel) on cassette. Like the ghost of Halloween Past, I want to drag you back to what was once known as Irvine Meadows Amphitheater and park you in the front row to have your mind blown by the blazing mallet solo in “Grey Matter”.

Danny Elfman is one of the great musical minds of our time. He composed the soundtracks to films ranging from Batman to Good Will Hunting. He wrote original songs and voiced Jack Skellington for Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. But before he did any of that, he was the heart of my favorite band of all time, Oingo Boingo. And for 16 short years, they created one of the most diverse catalogs of rock music any band anywhere can claim.

My fourteen-year-old self once said, “Danny Elfman is God, and he created the guitar for Steve Bartek.” I’ve never been proven wrong.

Gateway track: Try To Believe
Catalog: iTunes, Amazon

To catch up on the first three installments of “The Top Ten Bands You Ought To Be Ashamed You Don’t Know (Or Know Better)”, catch up here:

Part 1 of 4
Part 2 of 4
Part 3 of 4

Jeff Garvin

Author of SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN and THE LIGHTNESS OF HANDS. Cohost of THE HERO'S JOURNEY podcast. Rock musician, D&D geek, aspiring revolutionary.

Comments (3)

  • Oingo Boingo was one of my three favorite bands in high school, along with Depeche Mode and The Cars. I have you to thank for getting me into them and for making them the first concert I ever attended in person. “Out of Control” still helps me center myself if I feel myself mentally or emotionally off balance.

    I haven’t listened to Dramarama in ages and will have to fill my office with their sound tomorrow when I get to work. I am unfamiliar with Trespassers William, but you certainly make them sound like a must-hear band. I will check them out.

    Loving this blog, by the way. Your descriptions make my mouth water. Describing Corey Manske’s on stage presence as homicidal? Live music is not usually my thing but that makes me want to watch him play.

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