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Punk / New Wave - Released July 1, 1979 | Island Records (The Island Def Jam Music Group / Universal Music)

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Even in the weird, quirky world of new wave and post-punk in the late '70s, the B-52's' eponymous debut stood out as an original. Unabashed kitsch mavens at a time when their peers were either vulgar or stylish, the Athens quintet celebrated all the silliest aspects of pre-Beatles pop culture -- bad hairdos, sci-fi nightmares, dance crazes, pastels, and anything else that sprung into their minds -- to a skewed fusion of pop, surf, avant-garde, amateurish punk, and white funk. On paper, it sounds like a cerebral exercise, but it played like a party. The jerky, angular funk was irresistibly danceable, winning over listeners dubious of Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson's high-pitched, shrill close harmonies and Fred Schneider's campy, flamboyant vocalizing, pitched halfway between singing and speaking. It's all great fun, but it wouldn't have resonated throughout the years if the group hadn't written such incredibly infectious, memorable tunes as "Planet Claire," "Dance This Mess Around," and, of course, their signature tune, "Rock Lobster." These songs illustrated that the B-52's' adoration of camp culture wasn't simply affectation -- it was a world view capable of turning out brilliant pop singles and, in turn, influencing mainstream pop culture. It's difficult to imagine the endless kitschy retro fads of the '80s and '90s without the B-52's pointing the way, but The B-52's isn't simply an historic artifact -- it's a hell of a good time. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Punk / New Wave - Released July 1, 1979 | Universal Music Division Maison Barclay

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Even in the weird, quirky world of new wave and post-punk in the late '70s, the B-52's' eponymous debut stood out as an original. Unabashed kitsch mavens at a time when their peers were either vulgar or stylish, the Athens quintet celebrated all the silliest aspects of pre-Beatles pop culture -- bad hairdos, sci-fi nightmares, dance crazes, pastels, and anything else that sprung into their minds -- to a skewed fusion of pop, surf, avant-garde, amateurish punk, and white funk. On paper, it sounds like a cerebral exercise, but it played like a party. The jerky, angular funk was irresistibly danceable, winning over listeners dubious of Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson's high-pitched, shrill close harmonies and Fred Schneider's campy, flamboyant vocalizing, pitched halfway between singing and speaking. It's all great fun, but it wouldn't have resonated throughout the years if the group hadn't written such incredibly infectious, memorable tunes as "Planet Claire," "Dance This Mess Around," and, of course, their signature tune, "Rock Lobster." These songs illustrated that the B-52's' adoration of camp culture wasn't simply affectation -- it was a world view capable of turning out brilliant pop singles and, in turn, influencing mainstream pop culture. It's difficult to imagine the endless kitschy retro fads of the '80s and '90s without the B-52's pointing the way, but The B-52's isn't simply an historic artifact -- it's a hell of a good time. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released June 27, 1989 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Many observers were prepared to write off the B-52's after the release of Bouncing Off the Satellites. Granted, the album was completed in the wake of Ricky Wilson's death, but the group appeared bereft of new musical ideas and were sounding rather stale. In other words, the last thing anyone expected was a first-class return to form, which is what they got with Cosmic Thing. Working with producers Don Was and Nile Rodgers, the B-52's updated their sound with shiny new surfaces and deep, funky grooves -- it was the same basic pattern as before, only refurbished and contemporized. Just as importantly, they had their best set of songs since at least Wild Planet, possibly since their debut. "Cosmic Thing" and "Channel Z" were great up-tempo rockers; "Roam" had a groovy beat blessed with a great Cindy Wilson vocal; and "Deadbeat Club" was one of their rare successful reflective numbers. Then there was "Love Shack," an irresistible dance number with delightfully silly lyrics and hooks as big as a whale that unbelievably gave the group a long-awaited Top Ten hit. The thing is, Cosmic Thing would already have been considered a triumphant return without its commercial success. The big sales were just the icing on the cake. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released July 3, 2009 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Pop - Released December 1, 2004 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Pop - Released September 1, 1980 | Island Records (The Island Def Jam Music Group / Universal Music)

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Conventional wisdom has it that all the B-52's' subsequent releases are highly inferior to their debut. While Wild Planet is not the rarefied wonder their first platter is, it's still darn good. The songs here are generally faster, tighter, and punchier than previously, though production values are not as wonderfully quirky and detailed; fewer songs here are as over-the-top crazy as the first album's "Rock Lobster" or "52 Girls." These formless selections continue to exhibit a cunning mix of girl group, garage band, surf, and television theme song influences, all propelled along by an itchy dance beat. "Give Me Back My Man" allows Cindy Wilson a unique opportunity to croon a broad, expressive melodic line. Fred Schneider parades his inimitably nervous vocals on chucklesome ditties like "Quiche Lorraine" and "Strobe Light." The best songs here are "Private Idaho," a wonderfully jittery number that employs a variant on the famous melodic snippet from the Twilight Zone theme music, and "Devil in My Car," a delightfully loopy hoot that lays the craziness on very thickly. Performances and sound quality are fine. This album is well worth hearing and recommended. © David Cleary /TiVo
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Pop - Released April 21, 2015 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Pop - Released June 23, 1989 | Warner Records

Many observers were prepared to write off the B-52's after the release of Bouncing Off the Satellites. Granted, the album was completed in the wake of Ricky Wilson's death, but the group appeared bereft of new musical ideas and were sounding rather stale. In other words, the last thing anyone expected was a first-class return to form, which is what they got with Cosmic Thing. Working with producers Don Was and Nile Rodgers, the B-52's updated their sound with shiny new surfaces and deep, funky grooves -- it was the same basic pattern as before, only refurbished and contemporized. Just as importantly, they had their best set of songs since at least Wild Planet, possibly since their debut. "Cosmic Thing" and "Channel Z" were great up-tempo rockers; "Roam" had a groovy beat blessed with a great Cindy Wilson vocal; and "Deadbeat Club" was one of their rare successful reflective numbers. Then there was "Love Shack," an irresistible dance number with delightfully silly lyrics and hooks as big as a whale that unbelievably gave the group a long-awaited Top Ten hit. The thing is, Cosmic Thing would already have been considered a triumphant return without its commercial success. The big sales were just the icing on the cake. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 1982 | Island Records (The Island Def Jam Music Group / Universal Music)

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After setting dancefloors alight and funny bones aquiver in 1979-1980 with their first two albums, The B-52's and Wild Planet, the B-52's seemed to run out of gas soon after, issuing a stopgap remix mini-album, Party Mix!, in 1981, and then turning in another stopgap mini in this lackluster set, produced by David Byrne, who must have seemed like a good choice, although his sense of humor is less zany, if just as weird, as that of the B's. Mesopotamia is the sound of a band that once sounded like it was on a steady path, now losing its footing. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 10, 2011 | earMUSIC Classics

One would have thought that after 34 years, America’s premier dance party band would have released a slew of live albums, but believe it or not, With the Wild Crowd!: Live in Athens, GA, represents the first official, non-bootleg live set from the B-52’s to date. Recorded in 2011, the 18-song set offers up a nice mix of old and new, blazing through beloved standbys like “Love Shack,” “Rock Lobster,” “Roam,” and “Planet Claire” with more gusto than one would expect from a band halfway into its third decade. Anyone who's ever been to a B-52’s show know that Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, and Cindy Wilson never phone it in, and now they’ve finally got the goods to prove it. © James Christopher Monger /TiVo
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Pop - Released June 1, 2010 | Rhino - Warner Records

Released in 1998, Time Capsule: Songs for a Future Generation is the essential B-52's greatest-hits collection. A chronologically assembled highlight reel of the group's first two decades, it contains all of their singles and a number of album favorites, along with two exclusive then-newly written tracks. When they first arrived on the scene in 1979, their kitschy thrift-store image and weirdly spartan sound immediately set them apart from others in the new wave scene to which they were loosely attached. Three guys, two girls, arcane hairdos, no bassist, and a sound that was equal parts spy music and good-time dance party, the B-52's were always fascinatingly loveable outsiders and remained so throughout their years of success. Beginning with "Planet Claire," "52 Girls," and the immortal "Rock Lobster," Time Capsule winds its way through their early and mid-'80s hits like "Quiche Lorraine" and the charming "Song for a Future Generation." As they continued to grow and evolve, their sound expanded, becoming both more nostalgic and more light-hearted, leading into their commercial peak in the early '90s with the excellent "Channel Z," "Roam," and of course "Love Shack." A highlight of this collection is the previously unreleased original mix of "Summer of Love," which feels far more natural than the version which ended up being released on 1986's Bouncing Off the Satellites. The two newly recorded cuts, "Debbie" and "Hallucinating Pluto," are decent enough and will interest collectors, though they can hardly be considered among the band's best material. Still, tacked as they are to the end, they serve as worthy bookends to this excellent 18-track set, which reveals the full career arc of one of rock's most fun and most distinctive acts. © Timothy Monger /TiVo
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Pop - Released April 1, 1983 | Island Records (The Island Def Jam Music Group / Universal Music)

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Following the botched collaboration with David Byrne on Mesopotamia, the B-52's decided to craft their fourth album as a return to the pop-culture funk explosion of their debut. Smartly, they decided to not simply replicate the skewed Southern funk of that album, choosing to update their signature sound with drum machines and new wave synths. As a result, it now sounds a little forced and dated, but the best moments -- "Legal Tender," "Whammy Kiss," "Butterbean," "Song for a Future Generation" -- rank as B-52's classics, and the entire record is certainly entertaining, even with its faults. [Whammy! was originally released with a cover of Yoko Ono's "Don't Worry." When the time came to reissue the CD in 1989, the group ran into copyright troubles with Ono and the song was pulled, replaced by "Moon 83."] © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released September 1, 1986 | Island Records (The Island Def Jam Music Group / Universal Music)

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Two years after the release of Whammy!, guitarist Ricky Wilson died of AIDS, a shattering blow for the B-52's. The group recouped and finished Bouncing Off the Satellites, the album they were recording when Wilson died. Considering their loss, it's not surprising that the B-52's don't sound entirely focused throughout the record, and it's easy to forgive them for the momentary loss of direction. Musically, it's a continuation of Whammy!, with the group's signature sound being enhanced by drum machines, synths, and sessionmen. There are so many musicians on the record that it winds up sounding too carefully considered -- the polar opposite of the loose, inspired fun of their early work. That said, there are some flashes of inspiration scattered throughout the album ("Wig," "Juicy Jungle," "Theme for a Nude Beach," "She Brakes for Rainbows"). There isn't quite enough to make it of interest to anyone but the dedicated, yet those listeners will find that there's enough worth hearing on Bouncing off the Satellites, especially if they're in a forgiving mood. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Punk / New Wave - Released January 1, 2003 | Universal Music Group International

Pop - Released January 1, 1990 | Island Records (The Island Def Jam Music Group / Universal Music)

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Released only in the U.K., Japan, and various parts of Europe in 1990, The Best of the B-52's: Dance This Mess Around was designed to capitalize on the unexpected success of Cosmic Thing. It's an excellent summation of the group's late-'70s/early-'80s heyday, featuring such staples as "Wig," "Give Me Back My Man," "Song for a Future Generation," "52 Girls," "Private Idaho," "Strobe Light," "Devil in My Car," "Planet Claire," and "Rock Lobster," as well as remixes of "Party out of Bounds" and "Dance This Mess Around." Even though it ignores the group's most commercially successful period (because it was released during that era), it still is arguably the best compilation of the group's work, since it has a focus and doesn't contain the chaff (namely, the new songs) that weighs down Time Capsule. Anyone looking for a far-reaching overview of the group's career should stick with Time Capsule, but Dance This Mess Around is a first-rate survey of the band's best (and most groundbreaking) years. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released June 1, 2015 | Concert Live Ltd

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Pop - Released June 19, 1992 | Reprise

"Good Stuff" was a transparent attempt to recapture the good vibes of "Love Shack." It didn't succeed, but it had its own charms, from the friendly beat to Fred Schneider's endearing vocal affectations. It wasn't great, but it did have the distinction of being the best single pulled from Good Stuff. Since it was released in 1992, when singles were released in seemingly endless permutations in both the U.S. and the U.K., "Good Stuff" was available in all sorts of incarnations. In the U.S., it was released as a seven-inch single, with an edit of the title track taking up the A-side and the B given over to "Bad Influence." This same lineup was released as a seven-inch and cassette single in the U.K. In the U.S., it was also released as a 12-inch and CD-5 single featuring "Bad Influence" and three versions of "Good Stuff" -- the "12-inch remix," the "remix edit" and the "Schottische Mix." Minus "Bad Influence," this lineup was replicated for the U.K. 12-inch single, but the same lineup -- plus the original version of "Good Stuff" -- was released as a single in Europe. But that wasn't the end of it by any means. Not counting the American promotional single (a worthless issue for anyone but DJs, containing just the edit and original version of "Good Stuff"), "Good Stuff" was also released in a box set (!) in the U.K., featuring the edited single version of the title track, "Bad Influence" and "Return to Dreamland," plus three badges, a sticker and a postcard. Certainly the kind of item just for collectors. When all is said and done, the American CD-5 single and 12-inch offers the best value for the money, but the mixes aren't particularly noteworthy, so only budget-minded serious fans will need to seek it out. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 29, 1991 | Island Records (The Island Def Jam Music Group / Universal Music)

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Party Mix! is a six-track mini-album that selects three tracks each from the B-52's' first two albums, The B-52's and Wild Planet, and presents them in dance mixes. Since the group's bouncy songs are already dance-ready, this makes for alternatives rather than real improvements, even from a dancefloor perspective. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Pop - Released July 1, 1979 | Island Records (The Island Def Jam Music Group / Universal Music)

Even in the weird, quirky world of new wave and post-punk in the late '70s, the B-52's' eponymous debut stood out as an original. Unabashed kitsch mavens at a time when their peers were either vulgar or stylish, the Athens quintet celebrated all the silliest aspects of pre-Beatles pop culture -- bad hairdos, sci-fi nightmares, dance crazes, pastels, and anything else that sprung into their minds -- to a skewed fusion of pop, surf, avant-garde, amateurish punk, and white funk. On paper, it sounds like a cerebral exercise, but it played like a party. The jerky, angular funk was irresistibly danceable, winning over listeners dubious of Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson's high-pitched, shrill close harmonies and Fred Schneider's campy, flamboyant vocalizing, pitched halfway between singing and speaking. It's all great fun, but it wouldn't have resonated throughout the years if the group hadn't written such incredibly infectious, memorable tunes as "Planet Claire," "Dance This Mess Around," and, of course, their signature tune, "Rock Lobster." These songs illustrated that the B-52's' adoration of camp culture wasn't simply affectation -- it was a world view capable of turning out brilliant pop singles and, in turn, influencing mainstream pop culture. It's difficult to imagine the endless kitschy retro fads of the '80s and '90s without the B-52's pointing the way, but The B-52's isn't simply an historic artifact -- it's a hell of a good time. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released March 25, 2008 | Astralwerks

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After hearing the ultra-sheen producer Steve Osborne smoothed across New Order's 2001 album Get Ready, the B-52s' guitarist and music director Keith Strickland found the sound that would bring his band into 21st century. The ultra-slick, synthesizer and drum machine driven Funplex is the result, and while it doesn't make up for the 16 years since their last full-length, it's a good argument that they should get off the revival concert circuit and get back to the studio more often. On the opening "Pump," singers Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson prove right away they can still create sweet harmonies, while Fred Schneider displays that he's lost none of his campy spark and still sounds credible when barking out stories of hot mamas cruising the mall while high on diet pills. The track's exciting Stereolab-meets-Duane Eddy construction vindicates Strickland's hunch about Osborne, whose half-new wave, half-MP3 age production is a great match throughout. The band's shimmy and shake performance is as energetic as ever and with songs like "Hot Corner," "Juliet of the Spirits," and the title track bringing warm reminders of "Roam," "Summer of Love," or "Good Stuff," the B-52s in 2008 are still adding fine material to their catalog. Bright moments that loyal fans will cherish dot the album, like when Fred delivers a "Robots-Bootybots-Erotobots" chant ("Love in the Year 3000"), or when a simple, quintessential B-52s riff mixes with intoxicating future disco ("Eyes Wide Open"). Problem is the songwriting seems a bit forced at times and the towering highlights found on their top-shelf efforts are missing. Nothing here is as gripping or as perfect as "Rock Lobster," "Private Idaho," or "Love Shack," and the songs that are borderline filler get pushed into one big forgettable lump towards the end of the album. Turns out, being the world's greatest party combo isn't just like riding a bike, but the B-52s are certainly pointed in the right direction. Think of Funplex as a likeable album from a lovable band and adjust your party planner accordingly. © David Jeffries /TiVo