Was (Not Was) is a hit

by Beacon Staff • April 23, 2008

Fresh off a nearly 20-year break, Was (Not Was) is finally releasing a new album, Boo! Keeping with their genre-bouncing sound, the disc offers a range of styles, including funk, jazz and soul.,Not many bands can claim to have collaborated with Ozzy Osbourne, Kris Kristofferson and The B52's, but then again, Was (Not Was) isn't like many bands.

Fresh off a nearly 20-year break, Was (Not Was) is finally releasing a new album, Boo! Keeping with their genre-bouncing sound, the disc offers a range of styles, including funk, jazz and soul. They even throw in some beat poetry. The sound is totally original, and while listening to Boo! you may keep replaying songs just because of how enjoyably different each song is from the one preceding it.

Hitting the music scene in 1981 with a self-titled debut album, Was (Not Was) garnered international praise for their complex and absurd lyrics as well as their genre-bending style. The band consists of Don Was (bass, keyboard, percussion and programming), David Was (flute, harmonica, misc.) who is in no way related to Don, Sweet Pea Atkinson (lead vocals) and Sir Harry Bowens (lead vocals).

Together, with several contributors, including Ozzy Osbourne rapping over electric jams in their album Born to Laugh at Tornadoes, the boys of Was (Not Was) utilize their many musical talents to add a truly original sound that is refreshing in these days of recycled sugary pop and actress-turned-singer culture.

The boys were last heard from in 1992 with a brief stint opening for Dire Straits. However, in 1993, the members took on individual projects and the band took a hiatus. Now, with the release of Boo! the boys are back. Their new offering is a fun, bouncy album that switches styles constantly. Just when they start to sound like a soulful ballad band (such as on "From the Head to the Heart") they change gears to an absurd, beat-poetry-touting group with a message ("Green Pills in the Dresser"). Never at a loss for unusual lyrics, the group spouts off their beliefs on popular culture and current events-they even sing about Tom Cruise.

While the lyrics can range from offensive to downright impossible to understand, each song has a message. The satirical lyrics of the first song on Boo!, "Semi-Interesting Week," are entertaining and insightful. This song covers so much ground, from Scientology to racism, and yet the style is funky and jazzy, prompting the listener to get up and dance.

The band has recently been all over the hot spots, playing at the Sundance Film Festival, the Orpheum in Los Angeles and South by Southwest. Their sound bridges the gap between generations and appeals to anyone who wants to jam to great, original music. In preparing to release Boo! the band went back to their original sound and created a crazy mix of music. They also met with Kris Kristofferson and decided to collaborate with him. Kristofferson can be heard spouting the back up vocals for "Green Pills in the Dresser."

One of the most interesting elements of this album is the use of different instruments. While there is the constant rhythmic keyboards that find a home in all the songs, the style changes as the headlining instruments vary. There is some great saxophone and percussion in the jazzy number "Big Black Hole" which evolves into the electric-techno stylings of the song "Needletooth."

This is a great find for music buffs looking for something new and different. Definitely give this band a listen. The members of Was (Not Was) cover every issue from drug abuse to cheating lovers, and they find a way to speak to everyone. Whether you are into hip hop, jazz, soul or anything in between, Boo! will deliver. So check them out whether you are looking for a change from the pop music scene, or you just need a change of pace for your Friday night dance parties.

Was (Not Was)' newest album Boo! hit stores April 8. and they will be playing in Boston at Johnny D's on April 30.