on March 28, 2008
This is tough. When Loreena McKennitt emerged with her new album after a 10 year gap, half of the album was great, and the other was "ok". The B-52's are back with a full length studio album, their first in 16 years. Wow, 16 years is practically a generation! I am writing this as an ardent fan, I own all their albums, a smattering of singles, rarities, books, etc. But I am honest, too. So, the Funplex... Fred is still in good voice and everyone is in a party mood. But is this a Party Out of Bounds?
The first thing I noticed was the music, from note one it was great! Three songs later it still sounds like the same song. That's how you keep the party going. They all are in good voice! I can still distinguish Kate and Cindy, welcome back Cindy!! Two things struck me that were very different from the other albums. 1. Electronics are more on the foreground now. Beats, beeps and whistles and all. Good stuff (wink). 2. Sex. There are a lot of sexual innuendos going on in the lyrics! More than ever! Look no further than "Ultraviolet"! Fred belts "let's hit the G Spot!" and "tell your skirt to take a hike!". Over the top, funny and fun.
"Juliet of the Spirits" is a nice number from the girls and Cindy can still reach those high notes that have been showcased in songs like "Girl from Ipanema goes to Greenland" and "Deadbeat Club". The album's best moment comes with "Deviant Ingredient". Just perfect!!! Sounds like a lost song from BOUNCING OFF SATELITES!. Great lyrics, chemistry, energy, swingy and kitschy! "Funplex" the title track and first single is a great party tune, about a mall... or a state of mind, not sure.
All in all FUNPLEX is a great album and the future generations of the B-52's are gonna party like it's the year 3000! The Kings of the Zulus and Daughters of Dracula are still partymonsters and will provide you the vibes!! So sit back in that outer space chair, drink that Mojito, wear that shiny poly blend, and wear those sunglasses on top of your head!
FUNPLEX in five words:
Hypnotic, Harmonic, Sparkling, Dizzy and Futuristic!
on April 11, 2008
The music of the B-52's, for me, has always been an acoustic narcotic. Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson have got to be the two most emotive singers I have ever heard (Mahalia Jackson comes in a pretty close second), and they contrast beautifully, the former being the tortured one (think "Hero Worship," "Give Me Back My Man," or "Ain't It A Shame") while the latter is all sunshine and positivity (think "Revolution Earth" or "Housework"). Fred Schneider is Fred Schneider; he can't sing and he can't dance, and he's brilliant at both.
Keith Strickland has the impossible job of compensating for the absence of Ricky Wilson, and it has to be said that he is the main brain behind the reinvention of the band. In his minimalism, Ricky Wilson was a fantastic guitarist. "Funplex" is the first post-Ricky album to capture the riff-happy playfulness of his style, and the album has a buoyancy and lift that "Cosmic Thing" and (especially) "Good Stuff" lack. It seems Strickland has learned from Ricky Wilson to keep it simple, straightforward, and energized.
There is nothing around today that sounds this exuberant. I'm thrilled that the B-52's are back, but it is something of a sad commentary that music nowadays, for the most part, simply isn't fun like this. Just because it's "party music" doesn't mean it isn't or can't be important (think Motown during the early 1960s). Yes, the B-52's are political (not that Amazon is the place to make that argument).
When I heard Steve Osborne was producing, I cringed a bit. He was ideal for New Order, but the B-52's sensibility seemed antithetical to the extremely polished tendencies of Osborne. I was totally wrong; Keith Strickland's choice to work with him was a stroke of genius (if only other vintage acts would make such a move). Osborne and the band really meet each other halfway, a truly inspired collaboration.
To really appreciate the production value of the album, you need to listen to it in full stereo on a more-than-decent system (it sounds muddy in my car and overly compressed on my mp3 player).
It amazes me how some people make their minds up so quickly, and have decided that the album is something of a letdown without really letting it grow on them. Remember, it took "Cosmic Thing" months to catch on. I have found that the more I've listened to it, the better it has gotten. The songs I initially didn't care for ("Dancing Now," "Deviant Ingredient") have become my favorites. Just no pleasing those dimestore critics out there, I guess.
I don't mean to sound greedy, but this can't be their last album...
on March 25, 2008
Finally, the long wait is over and the B-52s, my favorite party
band has put out an excellent new record. The Band sounds in top
form on this collection, Cindy Wilson is back in the line-up and
Keith Strickland has taken his time with the help of producer
Steve Osborne and come up with a futuristic, modern, spin on dance rock
with a new wavish touch that does not dissapoint. Kate & Cindy sound awesome harmonizing together
and Fred's vocal interplays stand right out in the mix, always something
off the wall to listen to. Sexual situations clash with their
best music since they first started making records, this one's for everyones
collection. Pump starts the party off right and other highlights,
Eyes wide open, Juliet of the Spirits, Funplex, Hot Corner, Deviant Ingredient,
Dancing Now, hold you in their spell to the closer Keep this party going
making this a B-52s classic. Its great to have these guys back with
some fresh new music.
on March 25, 2008
This CD rocks and pops and dances along at a decent beat and it's so nice to have the Bs back.
The sound reminded me of their second album, WILD PLANET, because it's more "dance rock" than GOOD STUFF and it's not as "arranged" as COSMIC THING.
Think of "Dirty Back Road" transformed into 2008 and you'll know what to expect.
And I'm happy to say that I really liked the ENTIRE CD -- every song makes the iPod!
In these troubled times, thank you Bs for bringing some FUN back into music!
on April 18, 2008
B-52s are a fun bunch whose sound reminds one of a raucous party. I first came across them when I heard and fell in love with their 1989 hit "Love shack" which prompted me to get the album it came from, "Cosmic thing". That was a brilliant album which featured some production by Nile Rogers (of Chic fame). After that, I heard a pair of songs they did for movies; "The chosen one" from "Pokémon 2000" and "Meet the Flintstones".
"Funplex" is their first album in some 16 years and is much more of what we've come to expect from the band, and despite the heavy use of synthesizers and heavy beats, the album still manages to transport one back to a time when bouffant hairdos and miniskirts ruled. Musicianship is top notch, and the inspiration for the more electronic sound was apparently New Order.
The sound is dancey, with loads of jangly surf guitars, shout-and-reply refrains, and copious use of silly words like "shimmy". Opening cut "Pump" is a prime example. Others along this line are "Hot corner", the jangly "Ultraviolet", title track "Funplex" (jagged guitars against a bubby synth bassline - my favourite), "Too much to think about", the extremely catchy "Dancing now" (with a fuzzy bassline) and the sunny "Keep this party going".
Slowing the tempo down but not by too much are the buzzing "Juliet of the spirits" (lovely harmonies making them sound like a sixties girl group), the plodding eighties sounding "Eyes wide open", the groovy "Love in the year 3000" (another favourite of mine), and "Deviant ingredient" (which finds Fred Schneider yelling silly words like "Bootybots" and "Erotobots" at intervals). There are no real ballads to dampen the fun party mood.
"Funplex" is a real fun album which more than lives up to its name.
on March 27, 2008
The limited 2-disk version is a Target exclusive and only available in-store. I purchased mine today($11.99) and it contains a bonus disk recorded live at the Roxy in L.A. It contains the following tracks:
1. Party out of bounds
2. Channel Z
4. Strobe Light
5. Rock Lobster
There are no rainchecks on this version so if you want it, you better get it soon.
on March 20, 2011
The short story:
This CD ties as "best" B-52s album. It's a fun, party-style music compilation for sure, but it has a decent amount of political and human condition reference to make it interesting. And, it's incredibly addictive! Recalling a comment by another Amazon reviewer on the "Cosmic Thing" CD - this CD is musical prozac, and a perfect "tie" for best B-52s CD along with "Cosmic Thing" - these two CDs are the "Yin and Yang" of the B-52s. The doctor prescribes "Funplex" and "Cosmic Thing" for whatever ails you. THANK YOU B-52s!
The somewhat longer story:
Being a B-52s fan from the first album, I was amazed how much I liked this CD just listening to the preview music clips on Amazon. Getting the CD and listening to it just a few times shows the addictive nature of it - you just want to listen "one more time" - it's fun and uplifting - but with a lot more of an "adult edge" compared to the other mega-fun album, Cosmic Thing. Perhaps new fans won't fully understand, but that realm of radical skate dogs from the 70's, for which "The B52's" was a cult classic, should be able to appreciate that this (if they are still alive!) is the same B-52s sound - now grown up, and sounding oh so good in middle-age.
So, it was natural to think - is this the best B-52s album? I thought about it a bunch, but I think that misses the point. Unless you are a die-hard "1st album" fan, the best albums are Cosmic Thing and Funplex. But they are really so different, that one alone is not best. They are really the "Yin and Yang" of the B-52's best. Cosmic Thing is the younger, lighter, carefree side of the Tao. Funplex is the edgy, more adult, fun, but slightly darker companion. The song Funplex itself - can be thought of a fun, upbeat song, but can also be thought of as a commentary on modern capitalism at it's worse - getting our fun from "faster faster, thrill thrill", while "blowing off, and losing the real thing", and in the end, questioning ourselves as to "what the hell will I do with this stuff"? and "taking a pill" to deal with it all. Sarcastic humor, but really pretty serious stuff depending how you think about it. In a word - BRILLIANT !!!
Ok - here's the play-by-play:
General: as others have said - electronica is more up front in the music, but not overdone. Female voices are awesome, really addictive, and the harmonies and highs that we expect from the B's are there big time! Amazing stamina and longevity of the B's, and these guys still tour regularly. Keep going B's!
1) Pump: Perfect start to a high-energy party CD - "Pump it up, give it up, turn up the track!" Dance the Jellybone! Great female vocals in both foreground and background. I mean really - can Kate Pierson possibly put out more energy? Hook her up to the grid and solve the energy crisis.
2) Hot Corner: Keeps the party going, but far less intense than the starter.
3) Ultraviolet: I would say similar to "Hot Corner" in keeping the party going, with a lot of sexual innuendo without subtlety. But, c'mon, it's tame compared to so much stuff out there. A lot of youth too - "Keep doing what we're doing, 'cause it's what we like!"
4) Juliet of the Spirits: OK - now here's a song really worth talking more about. I suggest that this might be the best B-52s song from the standpoint of uplifting, positive, and serious message. The message is so uplifting and spectactular. Read the lyrics and listen to it. Lock it in. If you ever are feeling down, afraid, repressed, beaten down by life - recall this song! Better yet, play this song!! Better yet, play this song every day in your car going to work, instead of taking an anti-depressant!! "Set your pleasure free, lady don't you be a fool, let your pleasure go!!!" Female vocals are haunting, so pleasant to listen to, and so uplifting!
5) Funplex: Should this be retitled "Complex"? It's like the candy called "razzles" - "first it's a candy, then it's a gum". Dance your butt off, and all of the adult message gets lost - and that's fine! But, listen to it with college friends drinking coffee, and it will turn into a point of debate over modern capitalism and the human condition. So ironic and satirical - "misery at the Funplex" - about sums it up. Brilliant, and sounds great too!
6) Eyes wide open: OK - it's GREAT! It's in the "Juliet of the Spirits" category. Musically, a great funky danceable beat. Perhaps a fast west coast swing? (which is a dance style, btw) Or, just freestyle. But a great, uplifting message - something that we should ALL keep to heart each day "I don't wanna clash, I don't want to re-hash the past, I just want release!" What a profound lyric - who says that the B-52s are not serious?
Sometimes, don't you want to grab your significant other and "Go down to your secret place, with eyes wide open"?... The song ends with a soothing instrumental segment.
7) Love in the year 3000: Not a favorite originally, but after a few listens, is really great - and who knows, perhaps even prophectic! Some really strong, and driving female vocals at some points - sometimes quite sultry. Again - the B-s vocals are just bursting with energy.
8) Deviant Ingredient: OK - brillant. Jimmy Buffet meets B-52's - perhaps the closest to the laid-back, care-free fun of "Dead-beat club", only now, it's a bit "deviant" - more adult and edgy.
But another cool part is the semi-throwback to "Private Idaho". On Funplex, you won't find any songs that are a duplication of music from the "Wild Planet" album. Funplex is the B-52s alright, but the adult version. But the "helicopter sequence" of this song is a faint throwback to "Private Idaho". Start listening to "Private Idaho" at 2mins:40sec, and ALSO "Deviant Ingredient" at the same time ~ 2mins:40sec. Also, if you listen very closely at about 3mins:15sec in "Deviant Ingrediant", the B's have a faint sounding of the "hooting" that starts "Private Idaho". A lot of innuendo in the helicopter sequence too - "I got to have it, I got to have it"..."everybody's gonna go home tonight, we know you gonna get it on"..."coming down, ... bring it down, ... bring it down", ... "I am now an eroticist" and it's all good - it cures what ails you! - "No more neuroses" says Fred! The female harmonies that follow are again a "Private Idaho" throwback - very cool.
9) Too much to think about: More strong female vocals and harmonies. This is now going back to more "fun-plex" and less "complex". Keeps the party going, especially the usual cool interplay of the female vocals and Fred counter-vocals - which almost define the B's style.
10) Dancing now: For the first 5 seconds, you almost think this is going to be some remake of Kraftwerk's "Trans-Europe Express", but soon snaps into the mix of guitar, electronica, and xylophone(?) characteristic of this CD. It's a smoother, more "future sounding" danceable beat. I guess it's about dancing now - oops, that's the title. Again - cool lyrics still come through "I'm dancing on the edge"... "the edge of a flame"... "feeling no pain"...and the song edges abruptly with the lyric "I'm dancing on the edge". As adults - how many times are we feeling like we're "dancing on the edge" - with that statement having nothing to do with dancing? So great.
11) Keep this party going: As "Pump" is the perfect start to the CD, this song is the perfect ending. Keep the party going on! This song has closest throwback to "surf dude guitar" of the past - sounds like a riff from the Ventures, or classic early B's music.
Final note: This CD is fun, deep, and addiciting. It's hard to get the songs out of your head. But since it's such a positive and uplifting message that embraces and breaks through the issues of daily life, this is a very good thing.
on March 25, 2008
Well, after a 16 year wait, they're BAAACCKK! From PUMP to Juliet of the Spirits, to Funplex and Hot Corner, the "Deviant Ingredient" here is Keith Strickland's commitment to the band, and his commitment to the evolution of their sound.
Cindy and Kate sound TERRIFIC, and their vocal harmonies are instantly recognizable. I had a smile on my face as wide as the Grand Canyon whilst listening to the tracks. Fred Schneider, in rare form, completes this grand quartet.
I'm a huge fan since the beginning, and it feels SO GOOD to have them back. Grab it, and listen to it. I'll bet you're up on your feet, shaking your honeybuns, before the first trak is over.
I say all of the B Fans out there, UNITE and petition the ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME to get this band in. They are true survivors, pioneers and .... THE WORLD'S GREATEST PARTY BAND.
on April 11, 2008
This CD is really good, and gets more amazing every time I've listened to it. The whole "let's party, have fun and a good time" vibe is still there, but there are songs that are beautiful and meaningful, too, while still being upbeat and everything you'd expect from this great group. Cindy's vocals are the strongest they've ever been on this one, as I prefer her voice over Kate's. It's am amazing CD, buy it, you won't be disappointed and you will grow to like it more and more and more. I love the songs Juliet of the Spirits and Deviant Ingredient the best. But the whole CD is great.
on April 6, 2009
I've owned or currently have just about every original release from the B52's, and have enjoyed most everything, including Funplex. It would be tough to pull off another Cosmic Thing success story, but the writers have the talent so it's not out of the question.
This CD is more techno, but it's the same essential dance disc you would expect from the Georgian Fab 4.
The good - even after so many years, Fred, Kate, and Cindy are still having fun. They have never been accused of taking themselves too seriously, and all the album tracks reflect that. It's nearly impossible to listen to this at work without the toes tapping or the legs bouncing.
The not so good - As a whole, I'm not very impressed with the lyrical creativity of the CD. A number of the tracks have an excess of repetition. While 'white hot shimmy in a Lurex gown' is fun to sing, much of the remaining content for Hot Corner doesn't show much creativity. Same deal to some extent with Funplex, though you'll never hear the line 'chandelabra in a Wonder Bra' *anywhere* but at the Funplex!
Their tunes have always had a sense of innuendo to them, this time around they made it much more overt, again I sense a lack of creativity. Maybe there was an impatience to write after taking so many years off? If so, I hope they knock the rust off and release another disc by '11 or '12.
Overall, the disc has some ups and downs. Vocally, the ladies do well while Fred is better at shouting the words in exclamatory joy. :-)
I dig the techno beat infusion, it's a nice enhancement to their sound.