Arts & Entertainment
3 min

CD reviews: The B52s & The Raveonettes

Fantastic light & dark

The B52s — Funplex

Sixteen years in the pop music world is an eternity — especially when you haven’t released anything, save for the odd single. So it is extra momentous that The B-52s are on the verge of releasing their first album of original material since 1992’s Good Stuff. For a band so entrenched in their image as a retro fun party band, you might be forgiven for wondering if they still resonate 16 years later. Happily, Funplex, the new B-52s album (out Tue, Mar 25), is fun, revitalized and, above all, fresh. It’s as if they didn’t take more than a year off.

The previous album was loaded down with whole lot of baggage. The group had been reduced to a trio due to Cindy Wilson’s sabbatical, felt the pressure of following up 1989’s massive Cosmic Thing and were rendered (temporarily) irrelevant due to the rise of grunge. Unbelievably, that’s how long they’ve been off the radar.

Wisely, the reformed quartet (comprised of Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, Wilson and Keith Strickland) chose a perfect producer in Steve Osborne (New Order, Doves, KT Tunstall); he’s done an incredible job of modernizing their trademark sound without sacrificing an ounce of their originality, energy, soul or party ethos. The playful title track and first single “Funplex” is a rocking and hilarious send-up of American mall culture. Schneider sings, “Faster pussycat, thrill, thrill/ I’m at the mall on a diet pill.” Wilson replies, “I’m your daytime waitress at the taco tiki hut/ Here’s your stupid 7 Up” and “Fashion frenzy gets me higher and higher/ No will power/ And my wallet’s on fire.” Only The B-52s could set such comically observant lyrics to a killer groove.

On “Ultraviolet” you know things are more than back on track as Schneider blurts, “There’s a rest stop! Let’s find the G-spot,” backed by jangly rock guitar and Wilson’s ecstatic hoots. On the new-wavy “Eyes Wide Open” the Bs rock a slinky groove and Pierson sings “I don’t want to clash/ I don’t wanna rehash the past/ I just want release.” This is a forward-looking album, and just what you’d expect them to sound like in the now, as on “Love in the Year 3000,” a delicious electro dance-rock song, and one of the disc’s highlights.

It’s a testament to their sheer originality that the B-52s could release an album nearly two decades after their last and still sound fun and engaging. The B-52s have influenced countless groups from Deee-Lite and Junior Senior to The Scissor Sisters. Fresh songs that sound utterly contemporary, plentiful hooks, strong choruses and perfect harmonies make Funplex a winner and, might I say, worth the wait.

— Shane Percy

***

The Raveonettes — Lust Lust Lust

Three years ago Danish duo The Raveonettes (singer/guitarist Sune Rose Wagner and singer/bassist Sharin Foo) came out with one of my favourite songs of all time, “Love in a Trashcan.” Its mix of hard-edged rockabilly angst and girl-group cool never gets tired.

But forget all that love jazz, Wagner and Foo are all about lust, now… and fuzzed out distortion. Lust Lust Lust is the band’s third album. It’s a dark, unsettling world similar to the places that The Velvet Underground and Jesus and the Mary Chain used to take us. And like those bands, The Raveonettes manage to make their sex and death fixation very hip indeed. You can just smell a leather-clad crotch and feel the gooey lip-gloss kisses. Woohoo… this music is alive.

The opening track, “Aly, Walk with Me,” is quite a piece of sonically corroded bliss as guitars grind like saw blades on cement to Wagner and Foo’s gothic harmonization. Surprisingly it manages to be sensual in its foreboding atmosphere.

“Aly, step right out of my head/ And kiss me goodnight,” they sing. “Aly, walk with me in my dreams/ All through the night.”

“You Want the Candy” is probably the best track on the album. It’s the slickest and clearly has the most straightforward arrangement, too. The simple chorus stays in your head for days. The surf guitar twang that flies in now and then is pure heaven.

“Sugar done melt the day/ The dark comes bittersweet/ Black lollipops/ Come on gimme a dirty treat.”

I just adore their harmonizing, Wagner and Foo are so sexy together. The lyrics are frequently straight-boy-centric (all the songs are written by Wagner) but with Foo’s female voice always singing every line with Wagner, all the songs get queerified instantly. The last track, “The Beat Dies,” echoes the creepy romantic air of Julee Cruise and Angelo Badalamenti’s music for David Lynch’s Twin Peaks TV series.

“The first love you can’t escape/ The second love feels like rape/ A giggly smile/ Nightpale face/ I hear you whispering hope he stays.”

They sing these lines as innocently and as purely as The Everly Brothers sang, “I can make you mine/ Taste your lips of wine/ Anytime night or day/ Only trouble is/ Gee whiz/ I’m dreaming my life away.”

That’s what makes The Raveonettes’ Lust Lust Lust so special. I love love love it.

— John Webster