[Review] The B-52’s: Wild Planet (1980)

Their second album delivers more of the same wigged-out genius, but you’ve haired it all before.

Kronomyth 2.0: Wig it good.

Wild Planet kept the party going. While not a complete carbon copy of their first album (despite the similar album covers), The B-52’s certainly weren’t going to reinvent the wheels that got them this far. There are subtle differences in the music—an increased use of synthesizers, mechanically precise drum beats—that have more in common with Devo than Gang of Four, but mostly this is about The B-52’s just being themselves.

Some of the band’s best songs are here: Private Idaho, Party Out of Bounds, Give Me Back My Man (the latter a great showcase for singer Cindy Wilson). And yet there is also a creeping sense that The B-52’s had struggled to write new material, particularly as the second side rolls around. A group with (ostensibly) five songwriters should have been able to come up with more than nine songs, a few of which sound like hastily written retreads. Even the closing 53 Miles West of Venus, which features one of the band’s prettiest melodies, feels unfinished.

The subsequent space between albums seemed to confirm the notion that songwriting, and not musicianship, was the band’s Achilles heel. Listening to a song like Devil In My Car, as silly as it is, can’t match the excitement of hearing X’s “Riding with Mary.” Wild Planet is an enjoyable album, don’t get me wrong, but it’s certainly more of a guilty pleasure than a work of art. If The B-52’s felt like the future, Wild Planet makes you wonder how much of a future they really have. Of course, we know that the story ends with the band taking their place as pop icons, which makes Wild Planet an iconic album almost by default.

Original elpee version

A1. Party Out of Bounds (Fred Schneider/Keith Strickland/Ricky Wilson/Cindy Wilson/Kate Pierson) (3:21)
A2. Dirty Back Road (Ricky Wilson/Robert Waldrop) (3:21)
A3. Runnin’ Around (Fred Schneider/Keith Strickland/Ricky Wilson/Cindy Wilson/Kate Pierson) (3:09)
A4. Give Me Back My Man (Fred Schneider/Keith Strickland/Ricky Wilson/Cindy Wilson) (4:00)
A5. Private Idaho (Fred Schneider/Keith Strickland/Ricky Wilson/Cindy Wilson/Kate Pierson) 3:35
B1. Devil In My Car (Fred Schneider/Ricky Wilson/Cindy Wilson/Kate Pierson) (4:28)
B2. Quiche Lorraine (Fred Schneider/Keith Strickland/Ricky Wilson) (3:58)
B3. Strobe Light (Fred Schneider/Keith Strickland/Ricky Wilson) (3:59)
B4. 53 Miles West of Venus (Keith Strickland/Ricky Wilson/Cindy Wilson/Kate Pierson) (4:53)

The Players

Kate Pierson (vocals, keyboards, synth bass), Fred Schneider (vocals, percussion), Keith Strickland (drums, percussion), Cindy Wilson (vocals, percussion), Ricky Wilson (guitars). Produced by Rhett Davies and The B-52’s; engineered by Rhett Davies; executive producer: Chris Blackwell.

The Pictures

Art direction by Robert Waldrop. Cover photograph by Lynn Goldsmith. Hairdos by La Verne & Phyllis. Makeup by Paul Bricker.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette on August 27, 1980 in the US (Warner Bros., BSK/M5 3471), the UK (Island, ILPS 9622), Canada (Warner Bros., XBS 3471), France (Island, 6313 082), Germany (Island, 202.587.320) and Japan (Island, ILS-81343) with innersleeve. Also released on elpee in 1981 in Brazil (Warner, 6107 031). Reached #18 on the US charts (RIAA-certified gold record) and #18 on the UK charts.

  1. Re-packaged with The B-52’s on 2-for-1 cassette in the US (Warner Bros., 4-25131 SR).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (Warner Bros., 3471-2).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc in 1990 in the UK (Island, 842 436) and on August 25, 1990 in Japan (Island/Polystar, PSCD-1057).
  4. Re-released on super-high material compact disc on November 23, 2017 in Japan (Island, UICY-78473).

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