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RECORD RACK

*** OINGO BOINGO "Dark at the End of the Tunnel" MCA

February 25, 1990|Chris Willman | Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to five stars (a classic).

Danny Elfman has the worries and concerns of a secular gnostic--he's generally faithless, but nonetheless holds a sort of agnostic belief in animism that compels him to ask, "If you peel away the skin, is there anybody there?" and declare that "I'm not gonna give up the ghost." This obsession with death and the body/spirit split hasn't changed at all in the five years since Oingo's "Dead Man's Party" album. What has changed is the frantic format; manic adolescence has given way to slightly smoother music more befitting the themes associated with mid-life.

At least, that's one explanation why "Dark" sounds prettier, less hyper, more mainstream and unveils less formal innovation than past Oingo efforts. Others might cite creeping commercialism, or the fact that Elfman may be more engrossed in film scoring than band efforts these days--an argument sure to be bolstered by the presence here of a tune ("Flesh 'n Blood") that has already appeared on a sound-track album, and another (the uncharacteristically cheery "Try to Believe") that's actually the instrumental theme from "Midnight Run" with lyrics attached.

In any case, the trademark percolating polyrhythm isn't all gone, the melodies are increasingly easy to take, and Boingo is likely to survive as a machine for Elfman's ghost when he needs a break from films to throw his Angst a party.

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