The B-52's

Astralwerks, 2008

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan


Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, The B-52’s have recently (in 2006) celebrated their 30th anniversary as a group. This decade has seen them return to the road for a steady series of tours, which served as the catalyst for recording new music to spice up their gigs. Funplex is their first studio album since 1992’s Good Stuff and the first since 1989’s Cosmic Thing to feature Cindy Wilson after she briefly left the band in 1991.

Recording for the band’s eighth album began in 2006 and was completed almost a year later. The final months of 2007 were spent on the road testing new songs, and promotion for the album began early, building up to its eventual release early this year. The band was keen to update their sound but also wanted to deliver the signature B52’s sound, a task given to producer Steve Osborne, who succeeded magnificently.

Opener “Pump” is a funk-fueled jam augmented by a killer surfer guitar riff and typically daft (overtly sexual) lyrics (“I look at you and I’m ready to pump / Luminous heartthrob ready to jump”); this track wastes no time reminding us how much fun these guys are (and how much I’ve missed them). “Hot Corner” is more of the same, and it highlights the sublime harmonies of Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson as they effortlessly answer Fred Schneider’s conversational delivery.

“Ultraviolet” is blissful pop played by a band that lives for these moments, its light, breezy grooves giving way to even more hanky panky: “There’s a rest stop / Let’s hit the G-spot.” With the band members all over fifty, it’s a fine line to walk trying to pull off this sort of frivolous fun without sounding like horned up has-beens, but somehow they make it work my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 for them and not in spite of them.

The album’s two standout tracks follow with a one-two punch full of spunk and innuendo – it’s classic B-52’s. “Juliet Of The Spirits,” inspired by a classic surrealist film of the same title, tells the tale of a woman’s sexual awakening. Her liberation is evidenced by the lyrics, “Pleasure is calling you / Girl, can you hear it?”

This is followed by the title track, an explosion of energy kicked off by a signature Keith Strickland riff; it’s four minutes in pop heaven. Lyrically astute (globalisation, consumerism, and greed are all covered), it does, however, contain the stellar line, “I’m your daytime waitress at the Taco Tikki Hut / I’m your daytime waitress, here’s your stupid 7-Up.” The accompanying video is set in a mall and has Fred scooting around on a Segway; they sure know how to put the fun into Funplex

“Eyes Wide Open” is a track of minimalist proportions that pushes the electronic angle (thanks to Osborne) almost into Kraftwerk territory. The track opens up into pure pop for the chorus and those harmonies again are killer. “Love In The Year 3000” is the first misstep; its minimal electronic groove goes nowhere, leaving it sounding unfinished (think U2’s "Miami"), and its omission from the album would not have been missed.

Redemption, however, is immediate. “Deviant Ingredient” is pure pop as only The B-52’s can craft it. My first thought was that it was jammed between the album’s two duds (“Too Much To Think About” follows it), which makes it sound even better than it really is. But thanks to modern day technology on my play list version, (minus said duds) it remains sublime. “Dancing Now” sounds like it was left over from the Good Stuff sessions. It’s again a simple groove, but this one works due to its progression into a fun jam, and the restrained vocals do it justice.

“Keep This Party Going On” is a fitting way to end what is essentially a party album.  It’s a call to arms to party on in a world that has collectively forgotten how to: “Take this party to the White House lawn / Things are down and dirty in Washington.”  Ending the album with a classic song which could have been lifted from any of the band’s previous albums is “freeeeakin’ genius!”

So with the band reinvigorated and pounding out these songs on the road, hopefully they won’t make us wait another sixteen years for the next album. It would be a shame to not follow this up swiftly, as the B-52’s have retained its reputation as a good time band, one that from the sound of it still likes to party out of bounds (sorry, couldn’t resist.) 

Their pop sensibilities remain firmly intact, and aside from a couple of experimental moments that didn’t quite hit it, they have turned out a blissfully fun album. One more thing -- this sounds much better when played at a deafening level of decibels.

Rating: B+

User Rating: B+


Good review. I bought this CD the day it came out, and thought it was really good too.

© 2008 Mark Millan and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Astralwerks, and is used for informational purposes only.