Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate uncertain, is the 1989 fifth album Cosmic Thing by American new-wave band The B-52’s. Will this album make you hurry up and bring your jukebox money, or does it belong to the Deadbeat Club? Read on…
This 10 track CD opens with titular track Cosmic Thing, and we’re straight into a pacey beat, and Fred Schneider’s familiar shout-speak vocal style. This is the first of 6 tracks on the album produced by legendary Chic bass magician and songwriter, Nile Rodgers. This is definitely up-beat, bright, and cheerful as the B-52’s encourage you to ‘shake your honeybuns’. This is a real foot-tapping perfect opener, and it stood as the album’s second single. Sadly, it didn’t chart in the UK.
We’re then into Dry Country, with the tempo dropping a little as a nice little repeated guitar and vocal riff leads us to the first verse. This is quite a gentle and subdued song in contrast to the previous song, and Fred, Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson all seem to get an equal share of vocals. It’s a plodder, but nice enough.
Deadbeat Club is next, and the opening few bars seem momentarily reminiscent of hit Love Shack (next), before switching to a more guitar-led song. Cindy and Kate take the lead vocals here, and I’m reminded of Belinda Carlisle, Fuzzbox or a female R.E.M here in their style – and it all makes some sense when you see the video and spot Michael Stipe from R.E.M! The vocal harmonies aim high for the chorus, giving a good contrast to Fred’s vocals. It has a bit more energy than Dry Country, but failed to chart in the UK when released as a single.
The familiar opener of mega hit Love Shack follows this, and this is (of course) the very slightly different album version. The party sound, vocal contrasts been the quirky sounding Schneider vs Cindy and Kate, alongside the kooky video, really must have fuelled this song to its eventual success. It reached #2 in the UK singles chart, and somehow didn’t hit #1 despite the airplay, and the decades of inclusion in compilations, and parties. It is a masterpiece, and one that had producer Don Was (of Was (Not Was) fame) on his 1st of 4 producer credits on the album.
In contrast to the party in the previous song, a gentle wave of birdsong leads us into Junebug, as the sounds merge into a series of instrument sounds. A beat that reminds me a little of Walk Like An Egyptian by The Bangles, drops in and it is joined by some simple guitar strumming before Fred arrives on the mic. The track slowly builds musically and vocally as Cindy and Kate join in with some more roaring harmonies. Again, it’s another nice foot-tapper of a song, with the vocal interplay continuing to be quite fun.
Fourth single Roam follows this, opening with some angelic vocal harmonies, before a guitar and simple beat arrives. We’re treated to a glimpse of Kate’s rock vocals before handclaps drop in and we’re returned to an almost-R.E.M sound. The track gave the band a moderate UK hit single, charting at #17. It is quite a gentle melodious song, but lacks the energy that the UK had been teased with preceding single, Love Shack.
Next up is Bushfire, and this has some wonderful affected vocals from Fred before it gives away to racing guitars and rock beats. There is an energy in this track, and this culminates in the chorus, with the vocal play present again, keeping the ladies and Fred’s vocals away from each other. This gives each the benefit of being able to show off, and Kate certainly takes this opportunity in the mid-section.
Lead single Channel Z follows that, with a nice little guitar riff. The vocals here are wonderful – lots of power, beautiful harmonies, but the track is a bit subdued. The track didn’t chart in the UK until it was released later after the success of Roam and Love Shack, but it stalled at #61. The track has a false bottom, by which time it has kind of found itself, but has to end.
Topaz follows this, and sounds like a little summery cheerful song by someone else. Once again, we’re treated to some wonderful vocal harmonies from Kate and Cindy with occasional Fred dropping in to contrast perfectly in the chorus. The verses sing of landscapes and seascapes, and then on to planets and universes – and it almost has you drifting into space along with it. It’s a really nice little song.
The album closes with Follow Your Bliss, an instrumental track. This is a gentle synth track with moody guitars, sounding like the closing credits, of a ‘cosmic thing’. Whilst it doesn’t ‘sound like’ The B-52s, it is a nice little track.
Over all, this album is pretty good. The vocal contrasts between Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, and Cindy Wilson work repeatedly well, and in some tracks they really really shine together. With Nile Rodgers and Don Was on production dials, it does give the album two subtly different sounds. One, is the bigger, braver, confident tracks – of which the hugely successful Love Shack sits, the other is a female R.E.M that sounds great but doesn’t dare too much – in which Roam and Bushfire sits.
Love Shack is undoubtedly a highlight here, but it also has Topaz, Bushfire, and Cosmic Thing close at hand. Whilst there’s no bad tracks here, songs like Dry Country, and Deadbeat Club are weaker.
- POP RESCUE 2021 RATING: 4 / 5
- 1989 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #8, certified Platinum by The BPI.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.64 from an eBay seller.