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The B-52’s – Self-Titled (Album Review)

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The B-52’s – Self-Titled (Album Review)

Released the year I was born, The B-52’s wouldn’t appear on my radar for a number of years, but Cosmic Thing and the addictive Love Shack would have a lasting impression on me as by 1989, my love of music exploration was already developing and I simply devoured their rock meets dance meets classic pop styling. However, it wasn’t until Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (MOFI) reissued The B-52’s, Wild Planet, and Cosmic Thing on vinyl, via their Silver Label, that I once again paid serious attention to the new wave Artpop band and their entire back catalogue. 

One may wonder what I think of the B-52’s MOFI releases. Well, I’ve yet to pick any of them up as I have mixed emotions about MOFI’s silver label pressings. Of the two I own, Dead Can Dance’s Spiritchaser is remarkably good while Stevie Wonder’s Hotter Than July has just never sounded quite right, despite the pressing being perfect. Yes, dear reader, the mastering is key here and the style differences between the aforementioned records also need to be taken into consideration. That said, I’m once bitten, twice shy! Despite this, these B-52’s records remain on my lengthy wish list and we’ll just have to wait and see if/when I acquire them. If I do pick up these releases, you’ll be able to read about it here on Subjective Sounds. For the moment, however, the Mastered for iTunes edition, as streamed via Apple Music, is thoroughly enjoyable with a presentation that isn’t fatiguing or jarring on the senses. 

Planet Claire has an atmospheric start that is akin to any spy film you’ve likely seen from the era. As a fan of such films, this entrance captures my attention and is one of the very best songs to have ever led a debut album. I love it!

52 Girls, by comparison, is rather raw and underproduced. It isn’t fundamentally bad, but it really needed a little more spit and polish as the mix makes it sound like a demo, rather than a fully fleshed out recording. No more apparent is this than in the vocal tracking whereby it sounds distant and concealed in the mix. A B-side at best. 

Dance This Mess Around is a little left of the centre, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just takes a little getting used to. 

Rock Lobster is responsible for the mess and masterpiece that is John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy. I’m not a fan of Ono’s tracks on that album and while Lennon heard a similarity between Rock Lobster and Ono’s music, I don’t as I find Rock Lobster is musically and lyrically compelling. I could listen to it on repeat indefinitely. Whereas, I struggle to listen to Double Fantasy in a linear manner. Regardless, Rock Lobster is an absolute classic. 

Lava is one of my all-time favourite B-52 songs. I love the double entendre and the blues-based rock styling. That said, does anyone else hear a little Stevie Nicks influence in the vocal on this song?

There’s A Moon In The Sky (Called The Moon) is fantastic and logically witty. While it isn’t the strongest song on the album, I thoroughly enjoy it.

Hero Worship is a solid B-Side, but there is a better song hidden here just waiting to be revealed. While I don’t agree with artists re-recording their songs, in an attempt to change the mistakes based on years of reflection, there are songs, such as Hero Worship, that I would love to see The B-52’s re-record. 

6060-842 has a catchy rhythm and lyric. Yet, just like 52 Girls and Hero Worship, it sounds underproduced and is subsequently a B-Side that offers nothing to write home about.

Downtown is a cover of the classic made famous by Petula Clark. Honestly, it isn’t a great cover and it subsequently doesn’t compel me to listen to the album again. A shame considering the rest of the album, even the B-Sides, do encourage me to listen to the album on repeat. 

Overall, The B-52’s is an incredible and thoroughly enjoyable debut that is mostly polished with the sonic cues that would ultimately catapult The B-52’s to increased popularity as they further refined their sound. Is it worth owning? Well, to be completely honest, I’m unsure. There are some truly exceptional songs on this release with a few B-Sides interspersed. It is these B-Sides that cause conflict in my mind, although I will acknowledge that the more you listen to the album, the more it grows on you. Therefore, it is possible that I’ll grab a vinyl reissue at some stage, but the price would need to be right.

If you’d like to own The B-52’s Self-Titled debut, it is available on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

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(Was) Not Was – (The Woodwork) Squeaks [Compilation Review]

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(Was) Not Was – (The Woodwork) Squeaks [Compilation Review]

Every now and then I'll browse the library of albums that I’ve saved to my TIDAL Hi-Fi collection. Amongst the thousands saved, I'll inevitably come across a few that make me wonder just how they got there. (The Woodwork) Squeaks by (Was) Not Was certainly falls into that category and upon the first listen, I'm still unsure as to why I saved it. However, upon subsequent listens, the compilation has grown on me, so much so that it leaves me feeling compelled to listen to the compilation again and again.

From my perspective, it is interesting that I saved a collection of remixes and B-sides, as (The Woodwork) Squeaks was the first (Was) Not Was album I ever listened to. Generally, I prefer the core studio releases as a starting point. Nevertheless, I'm thoroughly enjoying this compilation and I invite you to put on your boogie shoes for this review as I have a feeling you're going to need them.

Tell Me That I'm Dreaming (Traditional 12" Remix) has a compelling boogie groove that almost instantly gets you into the music, if only the first few seconds were more compelling. You'll notice throughout this review that I won't contrast a remix with the original song. This is done purposely as I’ve not heard the original recordings. In some ways, that can be a good thing as my subjective opinion isn't clouded. Regardless, Tell Me That I'm Dreaming (Traditional 12" Remix) is a great song to commence this compilation with.

Out Come The Freaks (Predominantly Funk Version) is a great, albeit it lengthy, funk-based song. Remixes do have the tendency to drag on but at no time do I feel this remix needs to be shortened. In fact, it's so good that I could listen to it on repeat for hours at a time.

Wheel Me Out (Classic 12" Version) has a sonically rough introduction that doesn't flow on well from Out Come The Freaks (Predominantly Funk Version). That said, there are some elements in this song that I enjoy, but I have to acknowledge, for the most part, that I find this track to be tedious.

(Return To The Valley Of) Out Come The Freaks (Extended Version) is a great song with a sensational tempo. I love it!

Hello Operator (Classic 12" Version) has a glorious horn section that is so pure it sounds as though you were in the studio while the song was being recorded. Hello Operator (Classic 12" Version), besides starting out slow, is a hell of a good song and I adore that lyrical delivery.

Dance Or Die (From Sweet Pea Atkinson Album) is a killer song. You won't be able to stay still while this track is playing, so you have my permission to take a break from reading this review. Get up and boogie, I’m sure you'll thoroughly enjoy the experience.

Tell Me That I’m Dreaming (Souped Up Version) / Out Come The Freaks (Dub Version) is a great track that reminds me of Grace Jones and her style on the Nightclubbing album. That said, the transition between Tell Me I’m Dreaming (Souped Up Version) and Out Come The Freaks (Dub Version) isn't entirely seamless and the songs could very well have remained separate. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoy this track.

Out Come The Freaks (Classic 12" Version) is a great addition to this compilation, but it arguably isn't the greatest version of Out Come The Freaks.

(Stuck Inside Of Detroit With) Out Come The Freaks (Again) has an incredible rhythm that you can really connect with.

As someone with two left feet, White People Can't Dance is certainly the song for me. Although, when no-one is watching, I have "the moves". I love this song and it compels me to listen to the album again and explore the entire (Was) Not Was catalogue.

Sonically, the stream from TIDAL Hi-Fi is beautiful, with every musical element positioned perfectly. It’s really all anyone would need. While (The Woodwork) Squeaks hasn’t been re-issued on any physical media, recently, I feel content with this album being part of my digital streaming collection as it is, subjectively, not quite to the standard where I feel willing to outlay additional cash to pick up a copy. That isn’t a negative reflection on the compilation, just an acknowledgement that I don’t have an endless supply of cash and one has to carefully choose albums, especially considering the often inflated prices of re-issued vinyl. This is, yet, another benefit of music streaming as it allows for exploration and enjoyment without commitment.

(The Woodwork) Squeaks can be purchased on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, (The Woodwork) Squeaks is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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