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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

Out of nowhere, the B-52's had a genuine hit single -- as in a single that went all the way to number three, not just one that was an underground hit -- with "Love Shack," the irresistible second single from Cosmic Thing that showcased all three lead vocalists to fine effect. Since it was a hit, however, "Love Shack" became the most recycled and reissued B-52's single ever. It was originally released as a single edit, supported by an edit of "Channel Z," on a 7" and cassette single. At that time, it was also released as a 12" single, with adequate but not really interesting remixes of the title track ("12-Inch Remix," "12-Inch Instrumental," "12-Inch Mix," "Big Radio Mix"), plus a "12-Inch Rock Mix" of "Channel Z." The U.K. counterpart contained the single edit and the 12" mix, plus the "Danny Rampling Mix," which was the best remix of the bunch. The CD single that appeared in America contained familiar variations of "Love Shack" -- "12-Inch Remix," an edit of the remix, "12-Inch Mix," "Big Radio Mix" -- plus the new "A Cappella Mix" and the "12-Inch Rock Mix" of "Channel Z." Clearly, this latter single was the best bargain of the bunch, but confused fans -- and if you're not a hardcore collector, you're probably confused by all of this -- will likely just want to stick with Cosmic Thing to hear this great single. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released November 5, 2010 | Rhino - Warner Records

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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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Pop - Released August 25, 2014 | 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 May 20, 2008 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Pop - Released December 1, 2004 | 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 October 14, 2014 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Pop - Released April 21, 2015 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Pop - Released June 1, 2015 | Concert Live Ltd

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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 September 23, 2014 | Rhino - Warner Records

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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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Pop - Released July 11, 1979 | Reprise

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Pop - Released June 1, 2010 | Rhino - Warner Records

The B-52's were one of the great new wave bands, one of the ones who defined the style and cut one of the great records of their time (their eponymous debut), an outfit who maintained a dedicated following even as they fell off the radar of critics and hipsters, a group who overcame a tragic loss (guitarist Ricky Wilson) to make a startling, unpredictable comeback that launched them beyond college radio and to the top of the pop charts. It's a hell of a story, even if the final act was decidedly anticlimatic (after one follow-up to the Cosmic Thing comeback, 1992's Good Stuff, the group essentially disappeared apart from an embarrassing version of the Flintstones theme for the 1993 big-screen adaptation), and they're easily one of the more legendary bands of their time. Unfortunately, legend doesn't always translate to great music, and the fact of the matter is that the B-52's really only had two very good records: the transcendent debut and the comeback. The second record had its share of moments, more than the other albums that followed, and there were some sublime cuts scattered among the other records, but by and large they were a band who got by on their brilliant moments -- brilliant moments that were surrounded by competence and mediocrity. It really was the kind of career that could be salvaged and justified by a tremendous double-disc retrospective -- which Nude on the Moon: The B-52's Anthology unfortunately isn't. Make no mistake, it's pretty good and it has a lot of their greatest moments, but it stumbles at certain points, letting seminal songs like "Quiche Lorraine" or "Mesopotamia" be represented by alternate takes (1990 live take and remix, respectively), and padding it toward the end with album tracks that aren't that interesting. That's the worst thing about this lavish, lovingly produced set; no matter the care of the sound and presentation, there are just too many songs that are just average, not quite illustrating why the B-52's are so beloved. Of course, that's the fault of the band themselves, who never quite lived up to their early promise, but it would still be possible to jigger the final recordings to an artificial narrative, the kind that would show why people love this band. This isn't it; no matter the testimonials, the interviews in the comprehensive booklet, the great photos, or just the general warm vibe this Georgian band -- perhaps the greatest Georgian musical act this side of Jerry Reed or R.E.M. -- gives off. And that's because the material just isn't there. No matter their legacy, they have enough terrific material for a comprehensive single-disc set, not a double-disc set, and while this is more comprehensive and better-produced than the single-disc compilations, most listeners will find they'll skip over most of the material just to get to the good stuff from The B-52's and Cosmic Thing. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released October 21, 2014 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Pop - Released October 28, 2008 | Warner Records

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Pop - Released March 1, 2019 | Mountain Man Music

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Pop - Released April 21, 2015 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Pop - Released June 1, 2010 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Pop - Released December 16, 2008 | Warner Records

In 1981, The B-52's issued a six-track EP containing remixes of some of the most popular songs from their first two albums. In 1982, they released a new six-track EP produced by Talking Heads' David Byrne called Mesopotamia. Neither of them was essential, but both had their virtues, and they were put together on one CD after the group's big commercial breakthrough with Cosmic Thing. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo