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Review

B-52’s still strong with new album 30 years after debut

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April 16, 2008

It’s hard to believe that after 30 years the B-52’s can still kick it like they did in 1979.  Don’t believe me?  Take “Pump” for a spin, the surfer/disco romp that pops as Kate Pierson growls “I’m in it, I’m on it / Shake that jelly / Rattle them bones / Dance to the rhythm that’ll make you moan!”

At 60, there are few female vocalists half Pierson’s age who can match her fun and bold vibe. Cindy Wilson handles herself well too, especially in “Juliet of the Spirits,” a techno-induced trance that sounds like neon. And then there’s Fred Schneider. What else can be said?  He began rap-singing far before hip-hop gained ground, and still is in a league of his own, singing (speaking?) “Four miles to a breakdown / Anybody wanna leave town / There’s a rest stop / Let’s hit the G-spot!”

Yes, half their first album in 16 years, “Funplex,” is riddled with sex.  Scratch that—nothing is hidden here, it’s in your face.  While some may find that gross (get over it), the B-52’s do it with all the quirk and tongue-in-cheek humor they’re known for. The title track holds an echo of “Rock Lobster” within it as Schneider says, “Faster Pussycat, thrill, thrill / I’m at the mall on a diet pill.” What does that mean? The hell if I know, but it’s fun seeing the B-52’s as their odd selves again.

Although, sometimes they’re too clever.  “Love in the Year 3000” has Schneider repeating “Robots, bootybots, erotobots” several times in a monotone voice over synths.  No, I’m not kidding. “Deviant Ingredient” features a Wilson and Pierson duet: “Strip naked soul soup / The deviant ingredient,” but it sounds more like something their doctor prescribed than a turn-on.

Even with its faults, it’s hard to complain with “Funplex” as it’s much more than an album.  As pioneers of New Wave, acts such as The Strokes, Prince, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Red Hot Chili Peppers wouldn’t exist without them, period.  Knowing this, there’s not even a sign of smugness in the songs.  They’re here to make you move and have a good time. “Go to church on Sunday / Party on Monday / And every other day of the week / We’re just a bunch of party geeks,” they shout on “Keep This Party Going.”

Honesty like that ain’t easy to come by in an era of lip syncing and fake images. It makes you want to jump on stage with them.

Matthew Loosbrock is a student at UW-River Falls.