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Friday, July 27, 2012

The B-52's: Wild Planet


1) Party Out Of Bounds; 2) Dirty Back Road; 3) Runnin' Around; 4) Give Me Back My Man; 5) Private Idaho; 6) Devil In My Car; 7) Quiche Lorraine; 8) Strobe Light; 9) 53 Miles West Of Venus.

This sophomore offspring is by no means a «slump» — it just lacks the novelty and immediacy of its predecessor. The B-52's hit upon a winning formula, and they were not willing to let it go too quickly. Same lineup, same ideology, even the same recording studio (Compass Point at Nas­sau, Bahamas — a perfectly fine place to record wild party albums), even some of the songs were really old standards that they had played live since 1977. And the public had enough time to catch on as well — Wild Planet fared much better on the charts, since the band was by then a well-es­tablished phenomenon.

That said, even if we do know now what exactly to expect from the B-52's, and this friction slows down the excitement force a little bit, the tunes themselves are still consistently strong. Guitar riffs, vocal hooks, energetic tempos are all there, and, most importantly, so is the general «bite» of the band — if anything, they are getting snappier, ridiculing social conventions by the dozen with most people probably not even noticing that they are getting ridiculed.

The punk roots of the band show best of all on ʽPrivate Idahoʼ, which has the sharpest, stingiest «rockabilly-punk» riff of them all (reminiscent of ʽBrand New Cadillacʼ by the Clash) and obscure character assassination lyrics that may just as well be assassinating sociopaths and socialites alike (well, the line "you're living in your own Private Idaho" could easily be taken both ways). The inclusion of the song is a great move — since most of the other tunes are either about partying or about surrealistic kitsch, it sort of sets the band straight for those who would like to dismiss Wild Planet as simply one more bunch of meaningless decadent fluff.

But it's not like that at all, really. The opening single ʽParty Out Of Boundsʼ is not just hilarious — it is also thought-provoking, a wild romp where Schneider and Pierson lambast the party cul­ture to bits (which never prevented the song from becoming a cult party anthem, of course), and the culmination, with the girls chanting "party gone out of bounds, party gone out of bounds" is so symbolic of the B-52's entire existence that Schneider eventually ended up using the song title for his own radio show. ʽStrobe Lightʼ is an irresistibly fast R'n'B dance number, first and fore­most, but also a clear-cut hyperbolic satire on club culture excesses ("wanna make love to you under the strobe light" — yeah, right), featuring the immortal original innuendo "then I'm gonna kiss your... pineapple!" And ʽQuiche Lorraineʼ — now here is an anti-socialite rant if there ever was one, masked in a heart-rending story about the relations between a poodle and her owner.

While there are no melodies on the record that are as instantaneously seductive as the guitar / or­gan interplay of ʽPlanet Claireʼ, every song has at least something going for it in the line of vocal hooks (these usually consist of the girls chanting the song's title or whoo-hoo-hooing), and the keyboards rarely get in the way of pop guitars. That, in fact, is the main problem for the reviewer: the formula is so diligently observed on each of the songs that, mood-wise, there is almost no dif­ference between them, and there is no point in trying to discuss minuscule stuff like the slightly bigger emphasis on paranoia in ʽRunnin' Aroundʼ versus the touch stronger accent on obsessive-compulsive disorder on ʽGive Me Back My Manʼ.

Overall, Wild Planet is a modest success that should be swallowed in one gulp — you could try and take away individualistic highlights (starting with ʽPrivate Idahoʼ), but why? The songs are relatively short, the whole album only runs 35 minutes, and everything is linked together thema­tically as one large, hyperbolic send-up of all the ridiculous things that make people part of the same society. Funny, catchy, kitschy, and smart, there is no way that the album does not deserve an almost equally heartfelt thumbs up as its predecessor.

Check "Wild Planet" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Wild Planet" (MP3) on Amazon


  1. The real title of the Clash song is 'Brand New Cadillac'.

  2. I consider this to be the B-52's best record by just a hair. Mainly due to this one only having one track I'm not as hot on ("53 Miles West Of Venus" though it's still decent) whereas the debut had three. The debut hit higher highs but this one is more constant. The production has improved (there's bass now!) but it still retains the overall sound and atmosphere of the debut.