The B-52s

Warner Bros./Mobile Fidelity MFSL 1-004
Single LP
1979/2011

Music

Sound

The B-52s • Wild Planet

Warner Bros./Mobile Fidelity MFSL 1-014
Single LP
1980/2011

Music

Sound

by Marc Mickelson | June 27, 2011

he B-52s had to just happen. Their loopy, frenetic energy couldn't be deliberately concocted and still work. Emerging from the college town of Athens, Georgia, in the late 1970s, an improbably fertile place for alternative rock, the band took its name from slang for the poofy bouffant wigs that singers Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson wore. Vocalist Fred Schneider, guitarist Ricky Wilson (Cindy's brother) and drummer Keith Strickland completed the quintet, Schneider's emphatically spoken vocals becoming a trademark of the band's sound. It's rumored that the members, who had no previous musical experience, performed their earliest shows with taped accompaniment.

The B-52s sounds as otherworldly today as it did when it was released over 30 years ago. It's a dizzying, headlong ride without brakes, a melange of dance beats, surf guitar licks, vocals that teeter between news-anchor recitation and near-falsetto warbling, and an array of instruments that includes glockenspiel and toy piano, all filtered through a campy sense of humor. Beginning to end, there is nothing else quite like it. The more tightly arranged Wild Planet avoids the sophomore jinx, although some of the numbers fall into the category of forgettable dance music, telegraphing the band's next couple of albums.

Both of these releases come from Mobile Fidelity's Silver Label, which offers "an eclectic mix of great titles...[p]ressed on standard weight RTI vinyl." What MoFi seems to be after with this lower-priced series is an inclusive group of records that will appeal to more than its core customer base of audiophiles who immediately recognize the "Original Master Recording" ribbon. No sonic corners are cut; Silver Label releases are created just like all of the others: Mobile Fidelity's GAIN 2 Ultra Analog system uses a custom Studer tape player and handcrafted cutting amps that drive the Ortofon cutting head of a Neumann lathe. Master tapes are played back at half speed to best capture all of the recorded detail.

The Silver Label vinyl may be slightly thinner, but the results are the same. Each instrumental line of this busy music is supremely delineated, and the bass is quick-paced and potent.

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