Buttkickin’ Halloween Songs: “Insanity” — Oingo Boingo (1994)

All around the world now
Like a big bright cherry cloud
Traveling from home to home
TV sets and telephones
Here it comes just like a storm
Bathe in it and be reborn
Time to let the world know
Welcome madness… say hello…
Say hello…
Say hello…

The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo could sing a jaunty three-step number about pelicans and it would still make for a great Halloween song, I’m sure.

But their 1994 epic Insanity is not one of those songs. It ain’t jaunty, never a pelican to be found, and this one cuts way too deep.

At nearly 8 minutes in length, Insanity sounds inherently Oingo Boingish from the get-go. Ominous strings and horns set that foreboding tone; we’re not exactly going on a happy journey by any stretch. As drum patterns and digital xylophonic assault begins, Elfman’s reverberating voice enters the scene, and the sojourn has long since abandoned happiness. Or sadness. Or any real human emotion.

And then comes the children choir…

Insanity is all about its title, about the constant bombardment of radio waves, TV waves, mass communication, conformity, the perpetual onslaught of images, ideas, ideologies, religion, mind control, racial supremacy, consumerism… and like a seeping, creeping fog, slowly warping minds, degrading souls, and stripping our humanity away.

There are elements that date the song, like the Dan Quayle reference, which would have been dated even in 1994. The point is well made, of course, and it certainly isn’t anywhere near as jarring as, oh I don’t know, a spoken word interlude about fiscal year 1996 federal expenditures.

That aside, Insanity is a sonic expression of that multimedia pervasiveness, Marshall McLuhan “cool medium” as a transformation agent. In all the worst possible ways. These are the inexorable shadows and fog that flow off the marshes by moonlight and seep into our homes, breathed deep into our lungs, flowing into the brain, stripping away layer after layer of sense and identity. You become both the medium and the message.

I’d love to take you home with me, I’d love to tuck you in
I wish I could protect you from the wages of our sin
I’d love to hear you scream tonight, I’d love to hear you cry
Protect you from the madness that is raining from the sky
Let’s imitate reality (Insanity)
Let’s strive for mediocrity (Insanity)
Let’s make believe we’re all the same (Now that’s for me)
Let’s sanitize our little brains (Insanity)

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