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Friday, August 31, 2012

The B-52's: Good Stuff

THE B-52'S: GOOD STUFF (1992)

1) Tell It Like It T-I-Is; 2) Hot Pants Explosion; 3) Good Stuff; 4) Revolution Earth; 5) Dreamland; 6) Is That You Mo-Dean?; 7) The World's Green Laughter; 8) Vision Of A Kiss; 9) Breezin'; 10) Bad Influence.

You'd think that, perhaps, a band as nerdy-hip as the B-52's would know better than to respect the law of «never change a winning formula». But apparently, the temptation was too heavy: three years after the successful «sellout» of Cosmic Thing, Freddie «Slick» Schneider and his gang are back, still goaded by Nile Rodgers to do more of the same. Cindy Wilson, however, took some time off, and thus avoided directly involving her name in this project — arguably the silliest and slumpiest in the band's entire career.

Essentially, Good Stuff is just a laughably pale copy of its predecessor. The overall sound is just as generic and just as «non-awful», but the «risqué» songs sound more silly and the «serious» songs sound more boring. The three opening numbers have plenty of energy, but much of it goes to waste already on ʽTell It Like It T-I-Isʼ, which holds a flat boogie pattern over five minutes to inform us that the band wants to «tell it like it is» without saying a word about the «it» in ques­tion — faintly funny for about two minutes, then starts getting repetitive and annoying as heck. ʽHot Pants Explosionʼ puts us shin-deep in sexual territory, blankly firing with some of the stupi­dest lines to grace a B-52's record ("If you would be so kind / Put on those red hot pants and take a stroll through my mind" — what?). And the title track is a certified exercise in double entendres — "gonna wallow in your lovin' hollow", yeah right.

But at least, if all these tracks do make it seem like the band has completely forgotten its magic touch where words are concerned, the dance grooves and Kate Pierson's vocal flourishes on all three are still enough to redeem the sinners. Particularly the flourishes — the lady works authen­tic magic with the aiyee-aiyeehs on ʽTell Itʼ, the whoah-whoahs on ʽHot Pantsʼ, and the bom-bom bom-boms on ʽGood Stuffʼ so fervently that I find all three cases irresistible. Schneider has the unfortunate disadvantage of always sporting the same robotic-nerdy personality that does not al­low for a lot of variation (a robot is a robot) — Kate, with her reckless party gal stance, always gets to be more versatile and expressive.

Once the album starts getting bogged down in less gimmicky compositions, however, not even the vocals help much longer. ʽDreamlandʼ sacrifices seven and a half minutes in an attempt to join dance-pop and psychedelia on a groove that never seems to change upon initial installation and, overall, sounds like it needs many more overdubs and attention to detail in order to achieve its goals. ʽThe World's Green Laughterʼ manages to be a quirky, completely instrumental eco-an­them, but it states its point in thirty seconds and then wastes my time for another hundred and fifty. Finally, ʽVision Of A Kissʼ pushes us into completely generic territory — is this song at all worthy of the B-52's signature? Doesn't it belong in the world of Whitney Houston?..

In this pathetic, undeserving «sequel» attempt to cash in on their newly found fortune, the band seems to have finally «jumped the shark» — taken completely out of context, Good Stuff is a semi-decent dance-pop exercise, but as a conclusion to a fifteen-year old career, it is embarras­sing. Even the sci-fi references (ʽIs That You Mo-Dean?ʼ) now sound wedged in between cliché and nostalgia. And if we can tolerate some tastelessness on the part of these guys — they are too smart, after all, to be disgustingly tasteless — tolerating boredom is something we should not be doing in anybody's case, much less a band that used to regularly infuse their grooves with surpri­singly emotional content.

Yes, Good Stuff is about as exciting as you'd expect any album with such a title to be — if you knew your record was going to be a masterpiece, a title like Good Stuff would hardly be on your list of serious candidates. I am not giving it a thumbs down for only one reason: I am totally in awe over how such an obviously, blatantly fail-oriented record still manages to have occasionally catchy hooks and devote enough care to convincing us that all those thirty or so session musicians  credited in the liner notes actually did play on it. In other words, Good Stuff should have been awful stuff — through some miracle of the human brain, it is actually mediocre stuff. But there is still a long distance to be covered from mediocre to good — or, rather, from merely existing as a band to the stage where that existence continues to be justified. In 1992, there seems to have been little justification for the continuing existence of the B-52's.

Check "Good Stuff" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Good Stuff" (MP3) on Amazon

1 comment:

  1. Easily their worst album, but even at their worst The B-52's aren't unbearable. It's frequently bland and boring, but rarely embarrassing, and the best tracks are perfectly decent.
    One thing I find really odd is that live during this period Cindy Wilson was replaced with Julee "Breathy Voice" Cruise. I can't imagine the person who sang "Falling" and "Mysteries of Love" belting out "Tin roof rusted!" but I guess it must have happened.