B-52's prepared to drop some 'Fun' on Atlantic City at House of Blues
'Shack' Up B-52's prepared to drop some 'Fun' on Atlantic City at House of Blues
By Joe Szczechowski
Few experiences are quite as disconcerting for music fans as when they realize that the once seemingly ageless artists who created the soundtrack of their collective childhood are now deep into middle-age. When these former music icons -- now bloated, balding, or gray -- show up on some sad VH1 retrospective to recount tales of their heyday, it's their fans who suddenly feel very old.
So when our long-standing musical heroes return to defy Father Time and live up to, or even surpass our expectations -- recent examples being U2 or Bruce Springsteen -- they are typically welcomed by fans with unbridled glee. Rock 'n' roll never forgets, indeed.
The latest band to successfully emerge from the time capsule (which is, ironically, the title of the group's 1998 hits compilation) is the quirky pop-dance band the B-52's. Touring in support of Funplex, the group's first original album in over 16 years, the B-52's play Atlantic City's House of Blues on Saturday, May 9.
Vocalists Fred Schneider and Kate Pierson are both North Jersey natives, but the group, which also includes guitarist and composer Keith Strickland and vocalist Cindy Wilson, will always be associated with the Athens, Ga., new-wave music scene they helped establish in the mid-to-late '70s.
"We were the outsiders in Athens," Schneider told Time Out London in 2007. "We'd go to parties and people would, like, bolt the door."
With a sound that combined elements of punk, surf guitar, and early '60s go-go pop into a visually unique, kitschy mix, the B-52's began winning over audiences with tracks like "Planet Claire," "52 Girls," and the group's breakthrough hit, "Rock Lobster." The interplay between the female harmonies of Pierson and Wilson (who wore large, beehive-style wigs, aka B-52's), and the half-sung, half-shouted vocal counters of Schneider became another of the group's trademarks.
The group's goofy/hip visual style combined with the off-the-wall nature of their song lyrics seemed to scream "FUN PARTY BAND," but Schneider says that the group always took its work seriously.
"We're serious about what we do, even though a lot of it is humorous or whatever," he said in an interview last year for AOL Sessions. "People say, 'Oh you probably just throw things together.' We don't. We spend a lot of time on songs. We've always been serious about wanting to do good songs, and if they make you laugh, great."
Throughout the '80s and into the '90s, the B-52's kept fans smiling, dancing, and partying with hits like "Private Idaho," "Roam," "Good Stuff," and their biggest hit, "Love Shack." The material on Funplex, released in March 2008, complements that repertoire perfectly. The album mostly avoids the double-edged sword of trying to sound either too retro or too trendy. A modern electronic-dance vibe filters through songs like "Pump," "Juliet of the Spirits," and "Love in the Year 3000," but the band doesn't overreach trying to update its sound to match current fashion.
"I wanted it to be more rock and more electronic -- leaner, more focused and up-tempo and danceable," Strickland said in a 2008 interview with MP3.com. "I also felt that if we are to release a new album after 16 years, then we've got to give it our all and do what we do best. I've always felt that what we do best is really high energy, uptempo, shameless dance-floor party music. A lot of the dance music aesthetics have filtered into our sound, but I still feel like we still sound distinctively like the B52's."
If you take the songs on Funplex at their word, the group, which now ranges in age from 51 to 61, still revels in dancing, partying, and making frequent visits to the proverbial "Love Shack."
"Yeah," Schneider says. "We are a bunch of oversexed middle-aged people. It's pretty tongue-in-cheek, but I think every song except one is about sex."
The latest incarnation of Squeeze, featuring Tilbrook, Difford, Stephen Large, John Bentley and Simon Hanson, takes the stage at the Borgata in Atlantic City, with the B-52’s, on Friday, July 13. The two bands are currently on the road in the United States on their Summer Dance Party tour.
The Wrecking Crüe
Laughing with George Lopez
Fight Night at Boardwalk Hall