1980, Music

Wild Planet (1980) by The B-52’s

As with their debut, this is a wacky, dancy, vaguely surfy and extremely campy record which is a lot of fun.

Apparently the group saved a bunch of their material for their second record, conscious of trying to avoid a sophomore slump. I’m not sure I would have known that from listening to the album without reading that, but it does seem like the material is mostly as strong as the debut. (Some people maintain it is stronger. I haven’t heard the debut since last summer but I’m a little skeptical.)

Everything you expect from this band is here: the collision between ’60s novelty music, the campy vocals (alternatively sung and spoken/shouted), the guitar that sometimes sounds like it belongs in surf rock, the keyboards which sound like they’re from another decade, the overall sense of fun and the huge dose of energy (at least on the faster tracks). This is a fun band and the record is a fun record.

Once again, though the production doesn’t necessarily date the record the style sure does. It’s hard to imagine a band like this existing in 1975 and it’s hard to imagine a band debuting in 1985 with a sound this indebted to punk and with so little acknowledgement of synthesizers. If you like this band, that’s obviously not a problem. But for anyone who isn’t charmed by them, it probably sounds really dated. (Count me as among the charmed.)

My biggest problem with the record is that it is very much B-52’s Debut Part 2, even if they did preserve some of their material. (Perhaps because of that? One draw of using old material for your new record is that the new record might sound like the old one.) They have a shtick, and I don’t necessarily expect them to grow musically, but the sheer sense of surprise of the first is gone because they are exactly the same.


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