Review Summary: Like a better version of the debut
Forget "Rock Lobster." The true B-52's signature song is "Private Idaho." If you look at their career "Rock Lobster" doesn't really hold up as well as a lot of their material. It is a great song, don't get me wrong. It put the "beefs" on the map for crying out loud! However, its iconic cultural relevance has diminished its greatness. It got played out fast. It came from their debut album that, when played alongside later records, just doesn't have the same replay ability that albums like Wild Planet or Whammy! do.
"Private Idaho" should have blown up. It is a rockin', dance-y, catchy ***ing piece of art. And that is what most of Wild Planet sounds like. With three of some of the most unique voices in music, the "beefs" can make any weirdo's ear turn up. Whether it's the beautiful harmonies on "Dirty Back Road" or the scream in "Devil in My Car" or male singer Fred Schneider's
talk-sing style on basically everything he touches. The vocals are interesting and well thought out across the whole album. There are lots of overlapping vocals and call-and-response lines that are shared between all three.
In "Give Me Back My Man" Cindy Wilson really steals the show. One of the few solo vocal performances and one of the few serious songs they made. The emotion pouring out of Cindy is captivating. Over a deep low end and a dark sort of new-wave spaghetti western type or guitar playing, Cindy sings of the heartbreak of losing a significant other. It's a beautiful song and a nice change of pace from all the silly tracks. Plus the reverb slap back effect is a Rhythmic song all in its own.Songs like "Quiche Lorraine" are too silly for their own good. It's just Fred talking about his lost poodle and now he is bummed. The riff is boring and the song is slower than the rest of the record.
One of the highlights is "Strobe light." With a surf guitar over a fast 4/4 beat and gorgeous vocals from Cindy and and other female vocalist, Kate Pierson. The lyrics are nothing to write home about, they are just talking about banging underneath a strobe light. But for what it lacks in depth, it makes up for it with sheer fun and entertainment.
Ricky Wilson had a very strange guitar style as well. His untraditional tunings and surf-rock-meets-new-wave abilities put the band in a different category than their peers. He plays simply, but interestingly. Like on opening song " Party out of Bounds" he plays some weird rhythmic hiccup that really sets the stage for the song. It's only like a second and a half but the song wouldn't be the same without it. His riff on "Private Idaho" makes it an automatic classic. Keep it simple, stupid. And Ricky does simple real well.
Drummer Keith Strickland is solid, but not spectacular. He would later become the main creative force after Ricky died, but for this album he sticks to typical kick, hi-hat, snare type of beats. He's not a big fill guy. He mostly holds down the low keyboard lines and fluid guitar for the vocals the shine over.
While it isn't their best album and at times sounds a little too similar to their debut, it is a great album with many highlights and only a few dull moments. At under 35 minutes it isn't a chore to sit through and literally every single part of every song is danceable. They would later try and experiment with their sound (to great success in my opinion) but then later completely lost their edge and uniqueness that made them great. But you can still listen to Wild Planet and a band that were almost at their peak.