Deep Album Cuts Vol. 35: The B-52's

I recently wrote about Kate Pierson's new solo album, which got me thinking about her band and revisiting their catalog. I've loved The B-52's for about as long as I've love music, mainly because I had the good fortune to be 7 years old when "Love Shack" came out. And even as I came of age in a decidedly more serious period of modern rock than the one they thrived in, I never stopped marveling at what a perfectly unique phenomenon they were. I might even appreciate them better now, as this group of queer and/or just plain odd young folks from Georgia who fused surf rock beehive retro camp with utopian sci-fi, and made a handful of deathless party jams in the process. As a weird straight dude whose culture heroes included Fred Schneider along with John Waters and Scott Thompson, The B-52's helped form an important little corner of my understanding of what was cool. I was pretty geeked a few years ago to interview Fred over the phone and finally saw the band live soon after.

One thing I've come to appreciate more and more about The B-52's is how they took an ostensibly limited and eccentric sound and used it to express an incredibly wide range of sounds and ideas. Some songs would be a long Fred Schneider monologue, some would be just Cindy Wilson and/or Kate Pierson singing dreamy melodies, sometimes they'd just groove out on an instrumental. And while it's easy to bifurcate their catalog into the Ricky Wilson era, and the records after his death, Keith Strickland really took command of the instrumentation and took it in impressive new directions. And they've managed to cover a lot of topics and moods, there's really this beautiful strain of environmental activism and sexual liberation and self-acceptance running through their catalog in addition to all the sci-fi absursity.

The B-52's Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist): 

1. Strobe Light
2. Lava
3. Trism
4. Quiche Lorraine
5. 52 Girls
6. Dirty Back Road
7. Dry County
8. Cake
9. Juicy Jungle
10. Revolution Earth
11. Junebug
12. 6060-842
13. Hallucinating Pluto
14. Hot Corner
15. Bushfire
16. Hero Worship
17. Queen Of Las Vegas
18. Ain't It A Shame

Tracks 2, 5, 12 and 16 from The B-52's (1979)
Tracks 1, 4 and 6 from Wild Planet (1980)
Track 8 from Mesopotamia EP (1982)
Tracks 3 and 17 from Whammy! (1983)
Tracks 9 and 18 from Bouncing Off The Sattelites (1986)
Tracks 7, 11 and 15 from Cosmic Thing (1989)
Track 10 from Good Stuff (1992)
Track 13 from Time Capsule: Songs For A Future Generation (1998)
Track 14 from Funplex (2008)

I started buying CDs in 1992, and Good Stuff was among the first dozen or so CDs I ever owned. It was also, along with Def Leppard's Adrenalize, one of my first experiences in trying to get into a band through one of their underwhelming later albums. A few years later, Time Capsule was one of my first experiences in picking up a greatest hits compilation that was so perfect that it lowered the impetus to check out more of their actual albums for a while...which ultimately led to me trying to stay away from best-of comps and do things like this deep cuts series. Time Capsule featured a new single, "Debbie," but it also featured another new song, "Hallucinating Pluto," which was never released as a single and has long been one of my favorites by the band.

The Mesopotamia EP is one of the more interesting moments in their career because it came out of aborted sessions for a full-length album to be produced by David Byrne -- a combination made in new wave heaven that for some reason didn't quite work out. It was maybe too soon for them to try to make a dramatic departure with their studio sound, considering that they'd just made two amazing albums with their early sound and it probably had plenty of mileage in it. But that EP remains an interesting experiment, and some of the songs, especially the horn-driven "Cake," kind of point towards the more lush sound they wound up with on later albums.

The B-52's are kind of a hard band to totally classify 'deep cuts' with. Like with The Pretenders, I found myself avoiding all charting A-sides but still including songs that were probably played a ton on KROQ and college stations in the '80s. To a lot of people, everything in the decade between "Rock Lobster" and "Love Shack" is obscure, but there were a good number of charting singles, and even some of the songs that didn't chart appeared on the band's best-of comps and have been concert setlist staples. So ultimately I went with my gut and made judgment calls like deciding that "Quiche Lorraine" and "52 Girls" are deep cuts but "Dance This Mess Around" and "Give Me Back My Man" are not. This was also a hard one to narrow down just because they have so many deliriously entertaining songs, with so many glorious vocal harmonies and insane Fred moments. In fact, trying to include more of those kinds of moments meant that I ended up cutting some of the really cool instrumentals that have appeared on their albums over the years, including "Work That Skirt," "Follow Your Bliss," and "The World's Green Laughter."

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
« Home | Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »

Post a Comment