The B-52's

Funplex
(Astralwerks)

When we last heard from the Bs, their future seemed uncertain. Cindy Wilson had left the band, and though the remaining trio's Good Stuff album of 1992 wasn't bad, it didn't set off any sparks, either. Then Wilson rejoined the band to tour behind a greatest hits compilation and they started writing together again. Sixteen years later, the results see the light of day, and though they still can write a hook to get a party moving, there's nothing that sounds like 16 years of thought went into it. Their haphazard blend of disco beats, primitive guitar, and off-the-wall wackiness once set the standard for trash rock, and while Funplex is fun, it sounds tired, too. "Eyes Wide Open" and "Love in the Year 3000" have a noticeable Kraftwerk influence; the younger Bs were never that obvious. Party tunes like "Hot Corner," "Pump," and "Deviant Ingredient" work better, but earlier tunes reverberate through their structure. Producer Steve Osborne (New Order) adds futuristic polish, but a big part of the Bs charm was their low-rent style, something easier to pull off when you're young. The best track, and a possible classic, is Cindy Wilson's "Juliet of the Spirits." It has a gorgeous melody, a poignant lyric, and Wilson's heartrending vocal. The song encourages a woman who has never known love to take a risk and follow her bliss. It's one of the most emotionally mature statements the Bs have ever made, proving there's some maturity behind the band's manic façade.

 
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