It's hard to believe that The B-52s have been part of the music landscape for 30 years.
Blending garage rock, punk, and dance with dashes of humor and kitsch, the band forged a unique sound that no one else can quite duplicate. From early classics like “Rock Lobster” and “My Own Private Idaho” to mega late-'80s hits “Love Shack” and “Roam,”
they earned their reputation as a world-class party band. After an extended absence, The B-52s have returned with Funplex, a joyous collection filled with nonstop, party-friendly sounds that will make you feel like the '80s never ended.
The strongest cut, “Pump,” features relentless guitar riffing by Keith Strickland (the style originated by late founding member Ricky Wilson) and witty, sexy vocal interplay
among members Kate Pierson, Cindy Wilson, and Fred Schneider. The guitar remains in the forefront for most of the songs, unlike on 1989's Cosmic Thing. For example, “Hot Corner,” a song in the style of “Rock Lobster,” has Schneider half-rapping over
Strickland's furious guitar playing, punctuated by Wilson and Pierson's pleas to “shake it.” Virtually every cut urges listeners to keep partying, none more so that the first single,
“Funplex,” with lyrics such as “I'm a pleasure seeker/Shoppin' for a new distraction.”
Dancing Now” effectively fuses electronica with rock, while “Eyes Wide Open,” starts with an infectious beat that instantly grabs the listener and won't let go. Thankfully, The B-52s' trademark humor remains in songs such as “Deviant Ingredient,” where they seem to poke fun at their image: “Champagne cocktails on my table/Ciggie butts in the ashtray/Crew cuts and bouffants – expectations/Listen to the xylophone play.”
The witty “Love in the Year 3000” urges “robots, bootybots” and “erotobots” to kiss “in the spandex spiral vortex.” Only The B-52s could write such surreal lyrics and perform them over a throbbing dance beat.
Even though some band members are pushing 50, they sound virtually identical to their 80s heyday (they look even more timeless on the CD cover). Their voices, along with
Strickland's guitar playing, remain undimmed. Overall, diehard fans should find Funplex a satisfying hybrid of their early and late-80s work. Newer fans should find the disc a great tool for getting any party started.
Funplex serves as a welcome return for The B-52s, and cements their reputation as being one of music's best party bands.