Oingo Boingo

Boingo Alive

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Not quite a greatest-hits album and not quite a live album, Oingo Boingo celebrates not quite a decade of existence with the peculiar double album Boingo Alive. Elfman and bandmates re-record two dozen tracks from Boingo's prodigious canon in no particular order, and sweeten the deal by tossing in a few freshly penned numbers. The thrust of the package, as is hinted in the title, is to show off the L.A. band's sharpened agility as a live act, but eschewing the live setting. Each song was meticulously rehearsed and finally recorded "live" in-studio. Thanks to some subtle post-production, however, the final product's sound quality bears striking resemblance to that of the band's previous few studio records, leaving the band's feat, and a large point of the package, audibly undetectable. A few songs show inspired reinterpretations. The Alive recording of "Dead Man's Party" would become the new single version of the song, and rightfully so. The Willie Dixon cover "Violent Love" and "Goodbye Goodbye" were always fan favorites, but never worked their way onto an album. Here, Elfman and company rework the tempos and beef up the horn arrangements, actually improving upon the originals measurably. Tunes from their earlier era don't benefit from this revisionist tinkering, sadly. What made the original recordings of songs like "Only a Lad" and "Grey Matter" so unique and catchy are largely lost. The new wave effervescence is gone. The band's hyper-kinesis, the alien synth riffs, and Elfman's manic yelp have been smoothed over, erasing much of the songs' quirky appeal. Ultimately, Boingo Alive will please established fans of the group, even though they undoubtedly have the original versions of the majority of these songs. New material like "Cinderella Undercover" and "Mama" stacks up favorably against the recognized tunes, and there's nothing anywhere not to like, really. Newbies are better advised to check out Anthology or either of the two single-disc compilations.

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