VIP – Judith Jamison

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Dancer VIP: Judith Jamison – Alvin Ailey former Artistic Director

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Music Review – The B-52s, Funplex

Submitted by on 31 Jan 2009 – 3:25 AM Comments

It was roughly thirty years ago when a band called The B-52s came to be after an evening of Chinese food and heavy drinking in Athens, Georgia. For the five members that night—Kate Pierson, Fred Schneider, Keith Strickland, and siblings Cindy and Ricky Wilson—no one could have foreseen the impact they would have on music and pop culture as we know it.

Beyond the beehive hairdos and resuscitated dance moves of generations past, The B-52s would go on to stake out a sound all their own, cemented in tracks like “Rock Lobster,” “My Own Private Idaho,” and, of course, “Love Shack,” where the vocal interplay between Fred Schneider’s deadpan observations and the luscious harmonies of vocalists Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson became forever embedded into the public’s consciousness. It has now been sixteen years since the release of their last album, Good Stuff, which was, at best, a moderate success in the shadow of its monster predecessor, Cosmic Thing. Thankfully for fans old and new, Funplex is infectious, fun, and features some of the best melodic hooks and harmonies Kate and Cindy have ever generated.

Opening with “Pump,” our favorite party band makes one thing clear: this is a party album, and the sex is cranked up to the max. With lyrics like, “I look at you and I’m ready to pump,” and “lick my belly, turn to jelly, spread me thin, I’m in,” Kate Cindy, Fred and Keith—all in their mid to late fifties—don’t seem to have lost any of their sex drive. In fact, much of Funplex is an ode to embracing ones sexual self, whether it be space sex (“Love in the Year 3000”), sexual awakening (“Juliet of the Spirits”), or just plain getting freaky (“Ultraviolet”).

The muic is amped up, as well. Employing producer Steve Osborne, who recently helped rejuvenate the careers of New Order and Suede, Funplex dances this mess around with the speed of a cosmic dancer and the shimmer of a disco ball. But what’s most compelling about Funplex is how well The B-52s indefatigable sound translates to their new-millennium makeover without ever losing the charm, and kook, that made them so distinct back when they released their eponymous 1979 self-titled debut. As with all things bordering on brilliance, you either get it…or you don’t. It’s too easy to miss the point of The B-52s, and disregard their talent for making some of the most exuberant party anthems the past thirty years have seen. But imagine the next party you go to without “Love Shack” causing attendees to tear up the floors, or “Rock Lobster” educing strange noises and fits of glee from everyone around, and you might get the point. There will always be a time and place for The B-52s, because there will always be a need to stop taking life so damn seriously, and, in the words of our favorite party band, “tell your skirt to take a hike” and “do a white-hot shimmy in a lurex gown.”

Bruce Scott