Do you listen to a band that most folks have never heard of? Do you know the entire discography of a group that never had more than a few songs get major airplay? Does it frustrate you to no end that nobody else has tapped into the hidden treasures that you can't get enough of? Me too, so I thought I'd share a few bands that you should be listening to and probably aren't.
Oingo Boingo: You're probably heard of Oingo Boingo and might even request that Weird Science or Dead Man's Party get played on your favorite alternative station. What you don't know, however, is that their talent goes much deeper than these mainstay 80's hits. You've probably heard a lot of the work of the front man, Danny Elfman, without even knowing it. Do you watch The Simpsons? He did that theme. Have you watched a Tim Burton movie in the last 20 years? He did the scores to all of them but Ed Wood. The guy's got over 110 composer credits to his name.
So take that talent and put it into a band brave enough to have and use a horn section in almost every song, combining elements of punk, ska, new wave, and 80's alternative rock into a music delight. The best place to start is with their unofficial greatest hits album, Alive. The 2-disc set contains new recordings of most of Boingo's best songs and is a must-have to get acquianted with what Boingo can do. Follow that up with Dark at the End of the Tunnel, about as close to a concept album as they come. It perfectly blends dark songs like Skin with upbeat enthusiasm like Try to Believe making for one of those rare albums you want to digest in its entirety.
VAST: Since their self-titled debut in 1998, I've been hooked on Jon Crosby's musical project. (He's the only consistent member of the band.) The music is hard to define, jumping from almost metal to mainstream rock to soulful acoustic ballads. If you grab a copy of either Visual Audio Sensory Theater or Music for People, you'll get a pretty good taste of what this band is all about. You can even buy their later albums guilt-free since they're on non-RIAA labels.
Donovan Frankenreiter: Shauna can take all the credit for discovering this one. Anyone who can successfully bring back funk guitar without sounding like they're making fun of themselves has got serious talent. Find a copy of Move By Yourself and indulge in a flashback to some of the best beats of the 70s.
Electronic: The front man for New Order kicked off this new group with the self-titled 1991 debut. It combines the electronica background of New Order and the rock background of Joy Division, the precursor to New Order. In addition to Bernard Sumner, the group also brings in Johnny Marr of The Smiths, Neil Tennant from The Pet Shop Boys, and Karl Bartos from Kraftwerk, making Electronic the Genesis of synthpop. You'd do well to pick up a copy of Electronic to get yourself started on this gang of talent.