The B-52s: Dance This Mess Around

THE B-52’s have had a best of on the cards ever since ‘Love Shack’ jitterbugged (or was it the aqua-velva?) its way up the charts earlier this year, with the LP Cosmic Thing obediently following.

The thing is, the band’s history is on Island, whereas the above two thangs are on WEA, so Dance This Mess Around hasn’t got anything that was recorded later than 1986, and even then it’s only one song. That’s ‘Wig’, from Bouncing Off The Satellites. Also, there’s only one song from the album before that, Whammy! — namely ‘Song For A Future Generation’.

So, really, someone at Island is admitting that the best of The B-52’s took place between ’79 (The B-52’s) and 1980 (Wild Planet), and who but a total novice is not going to have either of those two albums? In fact, a lot of B-52’s fans have probably had Dance This Mess Around on home­made C90 for around a decade.

Whatever. You can’t deny there’s a unique vibe here. In the words of the bard, Let’s paaaartyyyyy.

Side one: the Wild Planet trio of ‘Party Out Of Bounds’, ‘Devil In My Car’ and ‘Dirty Back Road’ kick the door down, ‘6060-842’ commandeers the stereo, ‘Wig’ purloins an unmanned bottle of Mescal, and ‘Dance This Mess Around’ snaffles all the Twiglets. That’s half a good party sorted out already.

With the host in shock and most of the candelabra in the punch, it’s clearly an opportune moment for ‘Rock Lobster’, the song that made the band’s reputation back in ’79. Dizzily full of non-sequiturs, puns and fish jokes, it’s virtually a whole musical genre on its own.

By ‘Strobe Light’ some of the less resilient party-goers are looking up taxi numbers; ‘Give Me Back My Man’ is a good cue for the rest of the revellers to trample the rest of the Twiglets into the carpet. ‘Song For A Future Generation’ is a strategically-positioned call-to-arms for some of the bedrooms to be occupied; and ‘Planet Claire’ is a cool post-coital smoke.

Lunatic party monsters, like The B-52’s themselves, could always splash out on the CD, which provides two further tracks, ‘Private Idaho’ and ’52 Girls’, from the 1981 Party Mix mini-album. For that added dementia impetus, you understand. Be careful, though. It could be your house next time.

They haven’t made the ultimate party album — let’s face it, ‘The Passenger* by Iggy Pop isn’t on it — but I could envisage infinitely worse messes around which to dance.

© David CavanaghSelect, August 1990

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