Of all the factors that make them a fascinating force, the most engaging is that they always sound like an unhinged house party. The B-52’s never judge us. They’re merely our crazy art school friends who announce, “Just thought we’d drop in!” as they crash through the door, raid the icebox and guzzle the punch. And, who’s to blame when parties get really out of hand? Usually, they are.
The super-slick Fleetwood–Frampton blueprint was becoming stale and predictable — boring. And something had to give. Current pop music needed a shot — something new — fresh, but fun. Apparently consumers were craving untamed party songs punctuated by dissonant vocals, accented by bare-bones drumming, glossed with psychedelic keyboards and fueled by surf-inspired guitar riffs. A bi-gender collective definitely was in order. And if the guys dressed like Frankie Avalon’s cousin and the girls sported groovy go-go boots, mod-looking mini skirts and glorious sky-high beehives, that could definitely shake things up — maybe even define a new era “southern” music scene.
Following the breakout success of their self-titled 1979 debut, the B-52’s returned to the soiree in 1980. And 40 years ago this past week, the kids from Athens dropped their irresistible sophomore set, Wild Planet, via Warner Bros. Records in the U.S. and Island Records in the U.K. It soon reached the Billboard Top 20 and achieved “gold” status. “SURPRISE!”
A production collab between the band and famed producer/engineer Rhett Davies (Brian Eno, Dire Straits, Talking Heads, Til Tuesday), Wild Planet erupts from the get-go — buzzing with the authentic “social” vibe of “Party Out of Bounds.”
Bursting with their signature-style Saturday morning vocals and accelerated by Saturday matinee riffs and Saturday night swagger, “Private Idaho” captured the urgency of “Rock Lobster” and has become a much-loved band staple.
“‘Private Idaho’ is the perfect B-52’s song. It has
a killer guitar riff that sounds like no one else —
Ricky Wilson at his finest. Awesome chorus
vocals from Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson.
Keith Strickland’s driving back beat makes
you wanna dance. Fred Schneider’s angry
staccato vocals reveal a political anthem if
one reads between the nonsense of it all.”
(Frontman, guitarist / The Fantastic Plastics)
Another timeless standout, “Quiche Lorraine” is a clever romp — a twisted tale of Schneider’s disobedient “pup” who’s prone to “straying.” Although the “mangy mutt” dyed dark green with a strawberry blonde fall had brought Schneider much joy, the “dog” now is clearly headed back to her “kennel.” In 1980, the song was creative and hilarious. However, it’s questionable if those sentiments fly in today’s “woke” air space.
Gritty and punchy, sweaty and nasty, “Strobe Light” is the shiniest jewel of this nine-gem treasure trove. Oozing double entendres, this dirty little ditty is packed with pineapple-kissing appeal — a dance floor delight, to be sure.
The B-52’s are a band that have faced a fair share of heart-stopping highs and heart-breaking lows since first forming in 1976. However, their celebration rages on — and we’re ALL still invited to join the festivities. In sum, after 40 years, Wild Planet remains a fabulous party favor!
Wild Planet Track Listing:
1. Party Out of Bounds (3:21)
2. Dirty Back Road (3:21)
3. Runnin’ Around (3:09)
4. Give Me Back My Man (4:00)
5. Private Idaho (3:35)
6. Devil in My Car (4:28)
7. Quiche Lorraine (3:58)
8. Strobe Light (3:59)
9. 53 Miles West of Venus (4:53)
Run Time: 34:44
Release Date: August 27, 1980
Record Label: Warner Bros. (US) / Island (UK)