The B52's (Warner Bros. ‘79) Rating: A-
One of the quintessential new wave bands, the B52's have surprisingly outlasted almost all of their contemporaries despite the loss of group leader Ricky Wilson to AIDS in 1985. Although they hit a commercial peak with the Don Was produced Cosmic Thing in 1989 (due primarily to the massive hit singles “Love Shack” and "Roam"), artistically and influence wise the band has never topped this debut album. Musically, their weird, sparse lo-fi sound was a wacky mix of Ricky Wilson’s surf guitar, Kate Pierson’s strange, otherworldly thrift shop organ sounds, and Keith Strickland’s catchy chugga chugga drumbeats. Vocally, the duo of Cindy Wilson (Ricky’s sister) and Pierson recalled classic girl group combos, except they sang loony lyrics and were joined by nerdy Fred Schneider’s barked observations about such unusual song topics as extraterrestrials (“Planet Claire”), rock lobsters (“Rock Lobster,” the album’s signature song, which is terrific fun if perhaps over-long), and dances such as the “Dirty Dog,” “Camel Walk,” and “Hip-o-crit” (on the great “Dance This Mess Around”). This was a campy, eccentric, and utterly fresh sounding first album that seemingly came from outer space, and even the less successful album tracks (all on side two) delivered groovy good time fun. The above-mentioned tracks are the highlights, but a case could also be made for "52 Girls," "Lava," and "6060-842," as the B52's earn their reputation as a “fun party band” throughout this inventive release. The B52's became instant underground favorites of dweebs across America who worshiped their look (the girls sported beehive hairdos) as well as their sound, which showed that with a little imagination you could make any strange mix work.