The B-52s: Mesopotamia (Island)****1/2

OOOOH, C’MON, hey, wow, yeah, party, watusi, fandango, pistachio…Nuts.

It’s bloody hard to find bold new exciting statements to make about the B-52s, the hippy-hippy shakedown/pap pop pastiche/kitsch clichés all having been well exhausted. The party’s not over but everyone knows exactly what the score is, and the characters still play their parts with consummate style. All that’s left is the nitty gritty, so here goes.

After the powerdrive punch of Party Mix, the kids have finally presented an eager world with some new tunes to play with, but since this is more like an extended dub 12″ dancefloor spesh than your actual elpee, what’s truly noo in the groove is precious. With Dave ‘Meep’ Byrne at the controls, a Heads-on collision could well have been in the offing, but the great man has sensibly avoided any maverick moves to dominate the essence of B-52-ism. Instead he’s kept to strictly studio-style experiments, moulding the Beefs into a more sophisticated dub-rection without the loss of any natural bounce (hair and otherwise) or charm (note distinct absence of word ‘naive’).

‘Loveland’ kicks right into extended dancefloor duberama territory, choc with lashings of gutsy hard-driving percussion (beefed up with electro-effex) and a particularly breathy Cindy vocal wonderfully lowlighted by horny bass synth. Georgian fun(k), sparsely does it. Contrast time. ‘Deep Sleep’ is short, dark and sweet. Kate’n’Cind croon moodily over mock-cabaret smoochy pianna, conjuring up a broody late-nite menace of an atmosphere.

“Well I ain’t no student of ancient culture/Before I talk I should read a book/But there’s one thing I do know/There’s a lot of ruins in Mesopotamia.” Yeah, you know you’re home and dry when Goofy Fred makes a welcome entry during ‘Mesopotamia’ herself. Classic Schneider (you know it makes no sense). The puzzle’s completed by clear-ringing K&C sunshine harmonies and that ol’ familiar Strickland one-chord guitar underpinning it all, y’all. Marvy.

Flip that vinyl. Let them eat ‘Cake’. Horns! Rue Blondo eat your Sedsteins out! Electro-rhythms dance (this mess) around with ease, guitar grumbles and Byrne (for it must be he) rushes in with some distinctive rhythm breaks. The girls tease and drawl something rotten in this one: “Hey! Know what I feel like doing…I feel like makin’ a cake!…OOOOOH! What kinda cake do ya waaaan? Maybe a chocolate devil’s food cake! OOOOOWOW! That sounds good!…Let’s get this thing in the oven!” Hit me with your double-entendres.

Fred gets awful apprehensive in ‘Throw That Beat In The Garbage Can’, mussin’ up his ‘expensive’ clothes, it would seem. Heavy reverse dub effex bounce at the ears, including the very cartoon-inspired BOING that DJ Michael Campbell uses to equally fab effect, I’m told. Wacky saxbreaks abound, but no sign of a single OINK! Yet. From this point they race to the finish line through ‘Nip It In The Bud’s’ galloping beat and yet more superlative girly harmonies (how do they do it?) Needless to say, this abrupt and unwelcome ending leaves the heads, hands and feet (remember them?) begging for more. But the encore never comes.

Mesopotamia should be heard blaring out of club-sized mega-speakers and shimmied to on the most garish dancefloor you can find. Doesn’t really need a review to tell you that though, folks. Shock horror revelation: partymixes of the 52 kind make journalistic prose redundant. Take this recession-proof slice of dancemania and consume instantly.

© Betty PageSounds, 13 February 1982

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