Only a Lad introduced the world to a man who would later become one of its most recognizable popular composers. Danny Elfman, later to write the score for The Simpsons as well as countless movie soundtracks, formed Oingo Boingo in 1977, but it wasn't until Only a Lad's 1981 release that they achieved national recognition. Only a Lad contains obvious new wave elements, but it doesn't stick to any one style long, undulating over a vast musical terrain. Ska, new wave, classical, heavy metal -- they all make at least cameo appearances. The band's musicianship, even at this relatively early stage, far exceeds most of their peers, and Elfman's deft songwriting ability offers a clear glimpse of what was to come. Elfman's voice fits perfectly within an '80s context, but otherwise, the album sounds far ahead of its time. As such, it should come as no surprise the album had more influence on musicians and artists than on the charts. It's probably a good thing that this particular Oingo Boingo collection never reached too high a level of prominence, though, because the lyrical content of Only a Lad could have landed them in serious hot water. Although never vulgar, the album brazenly shuffles through taboos without compunction, writing from a pedophile's point of view in "Little Girls," not-so-clandestinely discussing masturbation in "Nasty Habits," and generally adopting a socially whimsical and irreverent attitude. The lone track not written by Elfman is a stellar tribute to the Kinks' classic cut "You Really Got Me." Later cited as an influence by such diverse bands as Nirvana, Mr. Bungle, and Fishbone, this album stands up well to the test of multiple listens and would make a worthwhile addition to any album collection.
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AllMusic Review by Kieran McCarthy