Sound — 8
Continuing on from the addled EP release, "Mesopotamia," here is "Whammy!"... which misleadingly does not have much whammy bar on it... if at all... okay, I'm kidding. At this point, The B-52's have taken on a 100% New Wave approach by this point, having now entirely lost the surf rock thing they started off doing in favor of synth driven music with some guitars taking the drivers seat every once in awhile. This would be the the last album we would hear a lot of Ricky Wilson's guitar work as well.
Back again, as a rundown of the players from previous reviews, and I'll keep it short this time... we have:
Fred Schneider - He's a cancerian of New Jersey who likes collecting records and exploring the cave of the unknown, he's also the one-liner spewing poet MC who is most well known for his darn-near-rap interjections in most songs.
Cindy Wilson - She's Cindy, she's a Piceis, she likes chawawas and Chinese noodles, and also plays guitar, bongos, tambourine, and possibly keyboards too on this album. Also sister of Ricky.
Ricky Wilson - He's Ricky, he's a Pieces, he loves computers and Hot Tamales, and apparently Mosrites as well. And Epiphone Coronets, Epiphone Wiltshires, a Guild Thunderbird with a very odd Mustang-like pickup configuration, and also plays a Strat and a Tele, and I also read he played keyboards on this album. Cindy is his younger sis.
Kate - She's a Taurus. She loves tomatoes and black cap chickadees, and she's also the redhead who plays synthesizer and acts as bassist.
Keith Strickland - He's a Scorpio for Athens Ga, and he likes to find the Essense from Within, and also wearing interesting hats from time to time, and he's a founding member and drummer (though he plays guitar sometimes by this point as well).
And what I just ripped off was "Song For a Future Generation" on this album.
There's a LOT of keyboard on it, and in some ways, this album sounds very ahead of it's time, almost like something from 4-5 years later. It's also the last album there is a lot of guitar on it. Ricky Wilson also takes up some keyboard on this album, probably goes with the "I like computers" part of that song. I think Keith takes up keyboards as well as I hear a lot of drum machine on this album.
Also, the wackiness is back with songs such as "Songs for a Future Generation," "Butterbean," but it's nicely entiwined with less as wacky stuff. The music sounds very much like it could have come out of a "Pee Wee's Playhouse" episode with that mixture of '80s new wave and '50s/'60s kitschy vibe.
Since this is a guitar site, I'll mention that Ricky's sound is still pretty surfy, but a bit more gritty, and he's lost a lot of the reverb that was on the previous albums, putting the rather minimal guitar out front and center in most cases. Possibly the only new wave album I've heard where that's the case end to end.
Lyrics — 8
My song by song play by play... like I've always said, The B-52's are not Shakespeare, so pretentious art students and hipsters seeking nonsensical lyrics with meaning hidden in their subtext need not apply.
"Legal Tender" - A song about counterfeiting money in the basement on the surface which also is a double entendre if thought about from the right angle. There's almost no guitar on this one, but it has a bit of "hanging around at home" feel that fits the song perfectly.
"Whammy Kiss" - I really wonder if Ricky got the idea for this in the guitar store with some hair metaller going on and on about Floyd Rose whammy bars. Pretty much a song about making out, or wanting to and waiting till you get home. It kicks in with a drum machine and synth sequence quickly beefed up by a heavily chorused SUS2 chording guitar.
"Song for a Future Generation" - a sarcastic song about the general American lifestyle in a relationship in the early '80s "I wanna be _____, I wanna be a _______, Let's meet and have a baby now." This is where I got the introductions to the musicians from, each musician mentions where they are, yes really, from, their astrological sign, and then a little about themselves. The music is like some really wacky orthodontist shop Jazz that gives the song a fitting sarcastic feel.
"Butterbean" - Looks like The B-52's took one from the ZZ Top book here, picking a subject, and pulling it apart with humor, in this case, the popular Southern delicacy, butterbeans. It sounds like the Saturday morning cartoons bumper from CBS circa 1987 to my ears which just makes it more hilarious.
"Trism" - A Trism is a endorphin induced state of mind caused by euphoric trance music. This song is about a gal out on the town going dancing at a club from what I can make out.
"Queen of Las Vegas" - About someone who gets passed down some knowledge from her dead father on how to win at gambling to become the "Queen of Las Vegas." Sounds a bit Vegas Like as it's one of the more elaborate pieces of music on the album with guitar and keyboard all the way through.
"Don't Worry" - A Yoko Ono cover! This was not on all prints of the album as Yoko made them pull that version. Like anyone expects from Yoko Ono, this thing is pretty crazy but fun to listen to.
"Moon 83'" - A 1983 remake of "There's A Moon in the Sky Called the Moon" from the first album. This took the place of "Don't Worry" on later pressings of the album. I actually don't like this one much at all, I love the original more as it had more muscle, this version sounds like a reject song from "The Jetsons" soundtrack!
"Big Bird" - Yes, I know what you're thinking, this song is about that big yellow bird from "Sesame Street," but it actually could not be about anything farther from! This song is about what the band's namesake aircraft was designed to do... drop bombs on people's homes. "There's a big bird over my house, it wants to use me to feather it's nest, now it wants the rest!" The music is nuts and incredibly fitting and falls into the Bee's newer "free form jazz" format - and on the icing, Ricky playing what is possibly the most screwed up guitar tuning he ever came up with, never before or since have I heard a clean toned guitar sound this evil.
"Work That Skirt" - A Stratocaster riffed instrumental + drum solo using the synth "Q" bass from Butterbean. Sounds like they broke out the drum machine and put Keith on the kit at the same time. Sounds very 1987-1988-ish, again, ahead of their time.
By this point, everyone was singing in the band. Fred, Cindy, and Kate are great as usual, seems the loudest of the two other guys is Ricky, whom makes a bit of a shaky delivery on his intro in "Future Generation," I don't think him and Keith usually sing. Overall, an 8, pretty good album overall, fun creative lyrics, and fun creative music, what more do you need, plus the band's exploring a new avenue here.
Overall Impression — 8
By this point, I'd put The B-52's into a bin with bands like Devo, Oingo Boingo, and Men Without Hats, except they are a bit more guitar driven than any of those three. The most impressive songs from this album are pretty hard for me to pull because they all are pretty solid and fun to listen to, and each one has a different mood to it. I love the shift in direction, however, this would be the first, and last time, we would head them this raw and guitar driven, next up will be the rather heavily produced, super-techno "Bouncing Off the Sattelites," also the last album to feature a key member. But I'll leave that for that review.
Bought it digitally, so I don't need to worry about someone stealing it. Again, a solid 8, they kept what made them great and tried another avenue. By this time they were touring with a full brass backup band, and were enhancing the original's live.