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The B-52's

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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