POP Spelled Backwards Music:

This week's release of “Funplex” by the B-52s denotes the seminal party band's first CD of all new material in 16 years. With its B-movie obsessions and low-brow cultural references intact, its sound fresh and updated, the band remains an American original.

Founding members Fred Schneider, Cindy Wilson, Kate Pierson, Keith Strickland and the late Ricky Wilson had their first hit with the iconic tune “Rock Lobster” 30 years ago. Since then, “Private Idaho” and “Love Shack” have also struck lasting chords.

Whether “Funplex” stands up to the test of time doesn't matter. The band's music is already enduring and endearing. These are the Bs for the new millennium and now is the time to “shimmy in a Lurex gown.”

“Funplex” consists of 11 tracks, opening with “Pump” which is destined to become a club classic. The first single off the album is the catchy sing-along title track. It coins great new B-ism's, like when Fred belts out, “I'm at the mall on a diet pill!” and “Private property… hippie be quiet, your peace sign T-shirt could cause a riot.” Meanwhile, Kate and Cindy chant “Oooh, broke my heart at the funplex — yes you did, yes you did!”

The highlight of the album is “Juliet of the Spirits,” inspired by the 1965 Fellini film of the same name. It's a beautiful upbeat anthem that showcases Kate and Cindy's sublime harmonies.

“Eyes Wide Open” is another standout, with its driving beat and contagious chorus. “Hot Corner” finds Fred and the girls in familiar territory, singing about any hometown that anyone ever wanted to leave.

The album rides high on the riffs of one of the most underrated guitarists on the planet, Keith Strickland and with its propulsive electronic vibe, “Funplex” is like eating cotton candy while drinking a double espresso.

Just in time for the long hot summer, the album sizzles as one of the band's best.


MICKEY CARUSO can be reached at mcaruso@valleysun.net.

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