Picks and Pans Review: Cosmic Thing
Get out the blender drinks, put the speakers on the back porch and start the party! The B-52's are back, and they have obviously had in mind one sizzling, blues-melting summer. Funny, funky, happy and wild, the band's seventh album sounds as if it ought to be blasted from a bright red convertible racing toward the beach, with a backseat full of hunks and beauties doing the shimmy. More than a decade ago—yes, it has been 11 years—when the B-52's zoomed to stardom with the dance classic "Rock Lobster," they charmed the world with their unique mix of futuristic electronic effects and retro harmonies and melodies. Still sounding as if they might be the illegitimate offspring of George Jetson and the Shirelles, these Georgians turned New Yorkers have polished their style to the point where they are completely irresistible. Singers Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson sound as sweet as spun sugar, Fred Schneider partly shouts and partly sings to put an ironic twist on lyrics that often toy with pop clichés, and former drummer Keith Strickland now keeps the mood lively by playing guitar.
Early B-52's albums had a slightly monotonous quality, but with help from whiz producers Nile Rogers and Don Was and assorted backup musicians, Cosmic Thing offers a range of tempi and a varied tradeoff of solo vocals and harmonies. The lazy, seductive groove of "Dry County" precedes the wild abandon of "Love Shack" and the lilting pop nostalgia of "Dead Beat Club" and "Roam."
Devastated by the 1985 death of their guitarist, Ricky Wilson, the B-52's kept a low profile for a few years; 1986's Bouncing off the Satellites album lacked the band's usual infectious energy. But Cosmic Thing shows the B-52's back in quickstep. "I feel like something's happening," Pierson sings in the album's first single, "Channel Z": "Something good could happen/Something big and lovely." She's right. (Reprise)
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