On 27 August 1980, the B-52s gleefully crashed the New Wave party with their second studio album Wild Planet, opening the scene with Fred Schneider’s unmistakable bark:

“Surpriiiiise! Where’s your icebox? Where’s the punch?”

The new wave quintet from Athens, GA released their sophomore album Wild Planet on 27 August 1980, bypassing their kitschy 1979 debut and songwriting on this release. The infectiously delightful album is chock full of gorgeous guitar hooks, the primal whoops of 50s Yma Sumac records, old fashioned call-and-response, and clever wordplay verging on the psychedelic.

Exploding on the scene during the height of cynical nihilism in the punk and no wave worlds, The B-52s embraced the retro look and the retro hook alike, pumping up their high energy with Ricky Wilson’s guitar jangles and Keith Strickland’s hypnotic drumming beautifully tying it all together. They took the energy of punk sensibility and injected it with a hefty dose of John Waters trash culture and satirical Southern charm. The B-52s have remained an anomaly for their entire career, but they certainly helped usher in the quirky 80s-meets-50s aesthetic that peppered the art and music world a few years later.

Most of the band identified as LGBTQ+, and from the get-go the B-52s were vocal about their support of AIDS research and marriage equality. Their radio-friendly tunes helped the group cross over to the mainstream, as well as simply embracing celebration of the human spirit during an era of darkness. (Ricky would tragically succumb to the virus himself just a few years later.)

Fred Schneider’s manic sprechgesang juxtaposes well with the 60s girl-group harmonies and emotional performances from Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson.  It’s nearly impossible to refrain from dancing to any track on this groovy masterpiece of bonkers pop. There’s fun surprises galore: that fantastic spooky organ breakdown in Private Idaho, a passionate description of the weirdest lost dog ever to exist (Quiche Lorraine), a manic Peter Gunn bass line with sci-fi touches…passionate promises of fish AND candy!

Recorded at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas and co-produced by Rhett Davies and Chris Blackwell, Wild Planet featured several concert staples. The B-52s shrewdly held on to the popular crowd-pleasers for this follow-up, knowing in the meantime they’d continue to drum up interest playing the songs live. Their gamble paid off: Wild Planet quickly certified gold.

Lynn Goldsmith shot the iconic cover, blessed by the art direction of Robert Waldrop. The result: a kitschy tableau against a sea of red, with an atomic age starburst in the top corner. Their glum faces stare blankly out into the void, perhaps a bit hungover from raiding the party fridge the night before? Hair of the dog…dyed dark green?

Wild Planet yielded three singles: Private Idaho, Give Me Back My Man, and Party Out of Bounds. The album spent 27 weeks on the U.S. Billboard album charts and reached its peak position of #18 in late September 1980 in both the United States and the UK. The album mostly received critical praise, aside from a couple grouchy reviews in the Village Voice and Rolling Stone, but forty years later it still packs a wallop.

Amazingly, the entire album clocks in at just 35 minutes.

Side 1

  • Party Out of Bounds
  • Dirty Back Road
  • Runnin’ Around
  • Give Me Back My Man
  • Private Idaho

Side 2

  • Devil In My Car
  • Quiche Lorraine
  • Strobe Light
  • 53 Miles West of Venus

Although Wild Planet was more studio oriented than their debut, their tight, frantic live act never disappointed.  The garish eyeliner! The massive beehives! That epic porn moustache of Fred Schneider!

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