B-52’s: Wild Planet US CD 
- Party Out Of Bounds
- Dirty Back Road
- Runnin’ Around
- Give Me Back My Man
- Private Idaho
- Devil In My Car
- Quiche Lorraine
- Strobe Light
- 53 Miles West of Venus
After the musical neutron bomb that was “The B-52’s” hit in 1979, we didn’t have to wait too long for the all-important sophomore album. By the summer of 1980, “Wild Planet” was released and I can recall buying a copy the week of release. Such was the band’s cachet at the time! When we removed the disc from the green paw print inner sleeve and let the needle drop, we were treated to an album that was less shocking and paradigm shifting from their debut waxing, but made up for its lack of world building by sporting outrageously good songs that were by turns, more sophisticated than much of their debut album.
When the fadeup for “Party Out Of Bounds” peaked we were dropped into a hilarious deconstruction of the point where a party could get too wild for its own good. The drums were beating out a motorik beat and the pulsing synth bass added flair to the band’s musical arsenal. The bongos were perfect and the wigged-out backing vocals by Kate Pierson were bright neon green in color. Ricky Wilson’s spy guitar was like a welcome friend.
Speaking of Krautrock influence, it showed up again [where we least expected it] with the mesmerizing “Dirty Back Road.” This was a riveting song where the same harmonic information simply repeated for three and a half minutes. The steady beat varied not by a single fill and the song was built upon a recurring twangy guitar riff that one could build a life with. The minimal functionality of it was considerable. And yet, I never wanted it to end. I’d like to hear a DJ keep this one going all night.
As a big fan of the tremendous Cindy Wilson, I was grateful to hear her get a spotlight on the powerful “Give Me Back My Man.” It sounded like they were using the same Roland drum tech that DEVO had used on their just a few months recent “Freedom Of Choice” album on the song “Mr. B’s Ballroom.” Ms. Wilson sounded like she meant it when she sang it here! If she ever put her mind to making a real country album it would devastate!
The lead single in America was the amazing “Private Idaho,” a song that focused the B-52’s aesthetic like a laser and still managed to sound as if it actually belonged on the radio in the bargain! Holding off the beat while the guitar riff set the rhythm for half a bar was a genius move of arrangement. That alone created a wave that sucked the listener into the song immediately. Then Kate Pierson’s freaky backing vocals reminded us that here was the band that was unafraid to venture into those Yoko Ono waters. The urgency of the song was unstoppable and the “outer limits” organ riff leading into the chorus was clearly the band at the top of their game. That this triumph managed to get to just #74 in the US Hot 100 was some kind of slap in the face.
The meaty guitar riffs of “Devil In My Car” were matched with a deliciously absurd lyric that only this band could commit so strongly to. Fred Schneider’s declamatory delivery was letter perfect for such a kitsch-laden number. “Quiche Loraine” was a rare downbeat song of abandonment that, once again, opened with a solitary guitar hook luring the listener into the storyline. The screaming Farfisa of Kate Pierson was angular and delicious.
The driving “Strobe Light” further endeared itself to me by the utter deadpan blasé comeback the women sang in unison to Fred Schneider’s too-cool-for-school come ons. The bass here was kinetic and the sexual metaphor of “pineapple” was utterly bonkers. The album closed with a call out to the sci-fi hi-fi of “Planet Claire” from the first album with the chugging instro “53 Miles West of Venus.” A tight 35 minutes with no filler! Yeah!
The co-production by Rhett Davies marked this as an extreme outlier to nowhere in his CV which is shot through with either Roxy Music related productions or things that wished they were Roxy Music. How did he get the job? Maybe his early Eno productions held sway with the band. Speaking of whom, they wisely held back some of the songs they had in their notebooks at the time of the first album for album number two. Why doesn’t every band do this? They were thinking ahead. As a consequence, the first two albums were inextricably linked in the terms of the songwriting quality and freshness of their vision. The band would later fall from my favor with their next move, but that’s another story.
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