A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this music.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The B-52's homemade/low-fi approach and campy attitude appealed to an irreverent punk fan base when they debuted, but The B-52's exuded none of the disgust or anger that's commonly associated with punk. This album contains very little that anyone could consider offensive, unless the imagery in "Lava" seems too sexual.
What's the story?
The B-52's were among the first groups to come out of Athens, GA, a college town that also spawned R.E.M., among others. They got their name from a slang term for the giant beehive hairdos favored by the female members. The band originally included vocalist Fred Schneider, brother and sister Rickey (guitar) and Cindy Wilson (vocals), singer Kate Pierson, and drummer Keith Strickland. They had little musical training but combined inventive, spacey (as in, from outer space) surf music with a retro mod aesthetic and a great sense of humor to create some of the most outlandish, original music to come out of the punk era. Like Devo, their use of low-fi synthesizer sounds influenced new-wave musicians. Sadly, after making a few more records, the group lost Strickland to AIDS, after which they took a three-year hiatus. They then went back into the studio to record Cosmic Thing (1989), which included the smash-hit party song "Love Shack." The B-52's still perform together; their most recent release was a live album, With the Wild Crowd (2011).
Is it any good?
In a way, The B-52's seemed to appear on the punk scene fully formed. Though their sound evolved, becoming more full and polished as they went on, their debut, The B-52's, showcases the band's wonderful futro (retro-plus future -- what people used to think the future would be like) sound in all its glory: the tight, raw guitar sounds; the soaring haywire harmonies; the surf rhythms; Fred Schneider's animated delivery. The terrific, ridiculous song "Rock Lobster" is still as much fun to listen to now as it was in 1979. The B-52's sound endures because they still sound unique, and they are a blast.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the connection between music and fashion. How does the B-52's look reflect their musical style?
"Rock Lobster" was The B-52's breakthrough song, but it's sort of nonsensical. Why is this track so appealing?
How were The B-52's different from other DIY punk-era bands?
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