Monday, December 31, 2012

The B-52's: Wild Planet (1980)

(Warner Bros.)


Sure, sure, it's just exactly like the first record. Does nothing new, etc. More of the same. So fine, think of it as an extension. Deny yourself this sort of pure delight and it's like, what are you even listening to records for?

"Party Out of Bounds" is the perfect way to ring out a year -- new wave haunted castle synths and better lampshade anarchy than "Barbara Ann" and, I dunno, "Love Shack" put together. Nothing here quite stands up to their all-time double-header peak of "52 Girls" and "Dance This Mess Around" from the first record, but mix those in with the bubbly march "Dirty Back Road" or inexplicably filthy "Quiche Lorraine" and nobody'll notice.

You can carp with every B-52's album after the first one, but the fact is that this one don't stop, and if we're honest with ourselves we realize that sentimental attachment ties us to its predecessor; if anything, Wild Planet is more consistent, and for god's sake, when Ricky Wilson was in the fold they were never anything less than a blast to listen to. The biggest brashest retro-funk on order here is in the steamily weird "Give Me Back My Man," a showcase for Cindy Wilson; the '50s Roebuck catalog surf-kitsch of the first album is effectively reprised with "Runnin' Around."

The best material here, however, is of more pronounced absurdity and is concerned primarily with the joy of band interplay -- "Private Idaho" is a surreal joke of little importance but its chief attraction is the chance to hear the band operate so well as a unit, subservient to nothing except its belief in its joyous art-punk. Even a towering riff like that of "Devil in My Car" can't be taken fully seriously, but its pleasures go beyond an attraction to antiquated pop forms and into a harmonic seizure of sorts, divorced from context and in the kind of avant world that allows for belted, feverish, bloodcurdling screams to become musical, for the declarative "I can't lock the door!" to achieve bizarre transcendence. It's all nonsense. It's perfect. You're so into their giddiness you're almost disappointed when "53 Miles West of Venus" is just music, chanting, then the curtain lifts: beneath it all, the band is terrific. Remember? But nuts to all that -- party out of bounds, still spinning.

The B-52's (1979)

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