photo & text by nacrowe
there's something to be said about music that is just fun.
the seminal NEW WAVE group THE B-52's, which emerged out of the same college scene in ATHENS, GEORGIA that produced R.E.M., is one of the most consistently energetic and fun bands i am aware of. they blend everything from SURF MUSIC, ROCKABILLY and early GARAGE ROCK into an intergalactic DADA-inspired 60s kitsch aesthetic that is both surreal and contagious in the extreme. standout tracks from their debut THE B-52's (WARNER BROS, 1979) include the iconic "ROCK LOBSTER," "PLANET CLAIRE," "52 GIRLS" and "DANCE THIS MESS AROUND" which all utilize the angelic harmonies of KATE PIERSON and CINDY WILSON as well as the kinetic charm and engaging enthusiasm of frontman FRED SCHNEIDER.
i was lucky enough to see THE B-52's play in NEW JERSEY several years ago at the COUNT BASIE THEATER. my whole family went and everyone had a great time which really is a statement. im having a hard time thinking of another act that plays so well across generations of music fans without being a complete nostalgia act. and that for me is the appeal of their debut, which sounds as fresh and contemporary today as it did when it came out in the late 70s. the ironic detachment, songs built on kitsch notions yesteryear pop culture (space race, JACQUE COUSTEAU, etc.), appropriation of retro fashions and sonic textures are all common elements of INDIE ROCK bands that followed in their wake. when i think of THE B-52's i think of musical liberation. they are the sort of band that if you can't appreciate than that is commentary on you, not them.
i want to also mention that years ago i went to see a now-disbanded group called CAMP FREDDY at IRVING PLAZA. CAMP FREDDY was essentially JANE'S ADDICTION minus PERRY FARRELL and they did strictly cover versions of songs with the actual members themselves. the cool thing is you have no idea who is showing up. so at this show i saw them cover ALICE IN CHAINS songs with JERRY CANTRELL and THE VELVET UNDERGROUND songs with LOU REED. i also saw them perform with FRED SCHNEIDER that night, which was insane because the stage lights went low and red and the slow sputnik-inspired churn of "PLANET CLAIRE" began with CANTRELL and DAVE NAVARRO standing sentinel on both sides of the stage. out emerged SCHNEIDER from stage right with his slinky repose and that ironic smile. it was beyond memorable and still very much a highlight more than a decade later.
obviously THE B-52's album is required listening and worthy of further investigation for anyone interested in NEW WAVE, INDIE ROCK, ALTERNATIVE ROCK or just fun music in general. highly recommended.