Sound — 8
The Bees are back, this time with a tad bit of modernization, but not so much that it completely changes the sound! We still have the same singer setup as usual, the two lovely ladies - Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierce, flanking our crazy M.C. Fred Schneider (usually).
Generally, a B-52's vocal works in one of the following ways:
- only Cindy sings, and Fred just jumps around the whole time ("Give Me Back My Man")
- Cindy and Kate sing, Fred jumps around with his toys again ("Dirty Back Road")
- Cindy and Kate lead, Fred makes humorous interjections ("Running Around")
- Fred leads and Cindy and Kate sing backup ("Private Idaho")
It seems The B-52's have done some modernizing on the instrumentation, the ol' surf influence of Ricky Wilson's Mosrites, Epi Wiltshires and Coronets, Telecaster, and Danelectro are still there complete with missing strings and wacky tunings, though Ricky has got the most rough and mean guitar sound of any of The B-52's albums, starting to use a good bit of chorus and distortion.
Kate has now moved to using synthesizers instead of just a cheesy Farfisa organ, and she's still bringing up the rear on the bass end of her new synths, which are a part of the more modern, angular feel of the album, a great example is the bassline on "Private Idaho" which sounds like a Yamaha FM chip found on most late '80s PC sound cards.
To be honest, this is one of my favorite albums of theirs, it's wacky, angular, and early '80s with that edgy, slightly creepy '50s/'60s avant-garde kitsch thing going on at the same time. The quality is excellent, and playing this on Vinyl gives the stereo separation a nice touch (as vinyl always does).
Lyrics — 8
Again, they can be a real mind boggler, lyrics at times seem glaringly simple on the surface, only to really be very deep and well written. Most of these were written PRIOR to the 1st album and were in the B's set lists even back in 1978... a full 2 years before this album was released.
Like a lot of the bands I like, of course, the B's are NOT about deep Shakespearian hipster-approved lyrics... or are they!?!?!?
1. "Party Out of Bounds" - This is sort of an introduction to their new style, and it's totally nothing but fun and plays on parties gone wrong... kicking off with a giant SURPRIIIIIZE! From Fred. The frenetic pace really fits the "party coming apart" vibe of the song.
2. "Dirty Back Road" - Driving a car on a dirty back road as a double entendre for having a good time in the bedroom. Just Cindy and Kate singing in unison most of the song. This is more like the 1st album than the rest of the album.
3. "Runnin' Around" - Fred's going nuts looking for his "baby" everywhere - maybe she's in the windows on the wall, or the beauty parlor at the mall... run run runnin' around. Just a fun song that somehow covers abandonment at the same time.
4. "Give Me Back My Man" - Cindy Wilson takes a solo spot singing a very deep song that has been interpreted as being about her boyfriend being eaten by a shark, or about finding god, or hoping for seabirds to bring her man back with a sacrifice from a department store. Very wacky, angular, and has a very pretty breakdown that foreshadows some of where the B's are going with their later albums.
5. "Private Idaho" - Fred takes the front on this tune seemingly pulled from a "Twilight Zone" episode. Ricky Wilson pulls out his ol' 1 man 2 guitar parts trick with his EB(E)xBB tuned Mosrite applied on "Fire" and "Rock Lobster" on the previous album.
6. "Devil in My Car" - An older tune, talking about their car being possessed by the Devil. Ricky has probably the heaviest guitar tone I've ever heard out of him, not sure what he used here, perfectly fitting with the tune. Come to think of it, there is a mention of Devil Juice in the Carburator - which could also imply this is a anti-drunk driving tune (sort of like ZZ Top's "Arrested for Driving While Blind").
7. "Quiche Lorraine" - This is an odd duck, it's about a poodle dyed dark green running away from Fred. Could be a tie to their PETA thing, possible anti-animal abuse, as most of the things Fred had done to the dog in the song could qualify. The song turns from cutesy to ominous, with the aid of possibly the lowest tuning Ricky used.
8. "Strobe Light" - This is another fast, frenetic one, very '60s go-go clubbish. The song is pretty simple though, basically about "making love under a strobe light." It's very fast, frenetic, and punctuated by clean toned drop-D guitar riffs.
9. "53 Miles West of Venus" - The album ties up with this mostly-vocal-less piece.
Overall Impression — 9
I'd say for 1980, it's in the same league as it's contemporaries, close comparisons I could make is they would fit a 3 band lineup with 1980 era Cars ("Panorama") and 1980 era Berlin ("Information"). To me, this is one of the peak eras for The B-52's, they still have the weird, avant-garde, '50s/'60s thing, merged with the angular, sharp, edgy early 1980's New Wave thing, and it gives them an identity that stands out amongst their peers whilst still being able to fill into bills.
My top tracks from this album, there are a lot. I particularly like "Private Idaho," "Strobe Light," "Devil in My Car," and "Runnin' Around" the most, though "53 Miles West of Venus" can be some pretty good mood music as well. And I almost forgot "Give Me Back My Man," that's one of my favorite Cindy solo tracks plus the guitar riff rocks.
The only track on this album I'm not really that into is "Dirty Back Road," and here's why, it's just a tad flat, I would think Ricky or Kate should have thrown a few more "fills in" or gotten Fred involved a little more to spice things up a little. But I guess it fits, it listens like riding in the back of a rusty old Chevy truck in the 1960's USA countryside on a dirty back road, so I guess it makes sense. As for stolen or lost, whatever, it's on my Amazon cloud.