Oingo Boingo, the Los Angeles rock octet that performed at the Bayou last night, could be a contender if only it would play out its intelligent pop pastiche in a variety of gears. Last night things started out in force and refused to slow down even for the quirky melodic curves or sudden lyrical stops created by head Boingo Danny Elfman. It's a musical policy well suited to the dance floor but less so to a listening audience.
Oingo Boingo echoes many new-wave mannerisms -- fractured rhythm patterns, an abundance of pop hooks, intelligent lyrics frequently relieved by a warped sense of humor. There are hints of Devo and Talking Heads, without the pretentiousness of either. With a small but tight horn section, it often sounded as if the Knack had merged with the Telstars to play the "Peter Gunn Theme" in triple time.
Elfman, despite being weighted down by the music's unrelenting purpose, is one of rock's charismatic wonders, a singer who plays out all possible emotional nuances on an incredibly expressive face that's as much an instrument as his voice. Like Peter Gabriel, Elfman elevates his own material in a performance that is much more than the rock by rote so prevalent today.