Time Capsule: Songs for a Future Generation
Despite ubiquitous songs like ‘Love Shack’ and ‘Roam’, The B-52’s are an acquired taste. I blame it on Aqua; the Swedish pop band had their five minutes of fame by mimicking The B-52’s distinctive style of contrasting shrill female vocals with a campy semi-spoken male voice, and desecrated it with heinous novelty compositions such as ‘Barbie’. In contrast, Time Capsule presents a respectable case for musical legitimacy. As legend has it, The B-52’s went out to dinner, got drunk and vowed to pool their limited musical expertise to form a band. Keith Strickland and Ricky Wilson, who only appears on the early tracks as he passed away from AIDS in 1985, backed the flamboyant vocals of Fred Schneider, Cindy Wilson, and Kate Pierson. While their material is quirky, they rarely resort to novelty songs; the only offender on Time Capsule is the inane ‘Song for a Future Generation’.
‘Private Idaho’, from 1980’s Wild Planet, stands out as the highlight of The B-52s career, but generally their early material is weird and often jarring. I prefer their later singles, which are more straightforward but still too offbeat to be dismissed as commercial pap for the masses. The sweetly harmonised ‘Deadbeat Club’ and ‘Roam’ are particularly enjoyable. Although The B-52’s embody a lot of qualities that I find difficult to like, including kitsch, camp, and lyrical inanity, I still enjoy Time Capsule. It’s probably all The B-52’s I’ll even need, although their self-titled debut, Wild Planet, and 1989’s comeback Cosmic Thing are generally their most highly regarded efforts.
Singles Going Steady
1979 (2001 edition), 10/10
It’s difficult to find a compilation that has a better critical reputation than the Buzzcocks’ Singles Going Steady. There are mixed opinions about the quality of the Buzzcock’s studio albums, but it is virtually unanimous that the collection of singles and b-sides that was originally assembled for their 1979 US tour is one of the most important albums to come out of the punk movement. I have the remastered edition, which bookends the material from the group’s 1980 singles. Although the Buzzcock’s playing is aggressive and energetic, placing them solidly within the English punk spectrum, their songs also have a poppy sheen and romantic themes that feel like throwbacks to the sixties. However, the Buzzcocks’ romantic themes are far from nauseating; surely no rock star has been jilted as constantly as Pete Shelley, as the irony laced ‘Everybody’s Happy Nowadays’ and ‘Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)?’ demonstrate. The Buzzcocks created a wonderful mixture of punk aggression, catchy melodies and appealingly underdog lyrics, and injected it into a fantastic series of singles.
The most controversial songs are arguably the most memorable; the hilarious ‘Orgasm Addict’ is actually surprisingly moralistic, but ‘Oh Shit!’ is possibly the definitive song for the curse word. The catchy b-side ‘Why Can’t I Touch It?’ rides an infectious groove, the only song on the compilation that noticeably extends past the three minute barrier. The Buzzcocks’ 1980 singles aren’t quite of the same calibre as their earlier work; they retain the energy, but expanding their sound palette from the simple guitar, bass, and drums formula doesn’t necessarily help this band. It’s difficult, however, to penalise Singles Going Steady when the 1980 material is listed as bonus tracks, while ‘Are Everything’ and the synth-laced ‘Running Free’ are appealing regardless.
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Aphoristic Album Reviews is almost entirely written by one person.
Graham Fyfe is probably the only music blogger to appreciate both Neil Diamond and Ariana Grande. Based in Fleet Street (New Zealand), he's been writing this blog since around 2000. Aphoristic Album Reviews features reviews and blog posts across a growing spectrum of popular music.
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