As reunions go, the B-52s return after 16 years is hardly the stuff of rock and roll wet dreams. Nobody’s really been sitting ‘round, pining for something new from the campiest of crews for the last decade and a half, have they? Not a chance. Those kinds of thoughts are generally reserved for more epic contemporary possibilities…think Pavement, The Smiths, or a Led Zeppelin line-up willing to play more than a one-off tease. Yet therein lay the beauty of an album like Funplex (Astralwerks). Listeners probably never missed the band, much less expected their first album of the 21st century to pack such a probable punch. This is ok, of course. In this case, finding ones’ self pressed under the wheels of such a surprisingly fresh bit of punk, new wave, and vintage rock is a rather splendid place to be.
Recorded with Steve Osborne – the same fellow responsible for New Order’s recorded comeback at the turn of the century - expect a noticeable update on the band’s dated, party-centric sound from listen one. Opener “Pump” oozes with thick dance floor synths, massive, programmed drums, and a gnarly guitar line that, dare I say, exudes sex and energy…all while Fred Shnieder, his odd ball delivery as classic as ever, trades lines with Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson perfected hooks. It’s ecstatic and relevant; a re-invigorated piece of pop that proves there may be plenty of life after “Love Shack”.
Guitarist Keith Strickland aimed for “shameless dance-floor party music” when he set down to compose the album. Yet tracks like “Juliet of the Spirits”, “Funplex” and “Hot Corner” play ripe with the kind of melodies, harmonies, and hooks that are too memorable to be shameless. No…Funplex offers priceless pieces of party pop decadence instead, carefully crafted for nothing more than the sheer fun of it all. And if listeners still need convincing, Shieder’s got them covered. Singing “Go to church on Sunday/Party on Monday…and every other day of the week/We’re just a bunch of party geeks!” (“Keep This Party Going”), Schnieder lays out the band's obvious creed. All listeners need to do now is follow it. – David Pitz