Drum machines and a greater use of synthesizers should make Whammy! a very different sounding The B-52’s album from their Duane Eddy riffed opening two albums and the largely dour David Byrne mis-step with Mesopotamia.
But even with smart 80s tech deployed, it actually marks a comforting return to their fun, live roots, which propelled them to acclaim back in 1978.
The songs are fun and the drum machines and synths work well with Cindy, Kate and Fred’s vocals.
The album also features three songs that were originally planned for Mesopotamia, Butterbean, Big Bird and one of my highlights Queen of Las Vegas, a crime thriller script of a track from Cindy.
The highlight of the album for me and arguably across all their albums is Song for a Future Generation, featuring all five band members in a wonderful 80s version of the likes of Tinder and other dating apps. Who doesn’t warm to drummer Keith wanting to find the “essence from within”?
There’s more here. Another crime focused track in Legal Tender and in Whammy Kiss the band developed a staple live classic.
There’s another of my favourites by the band in Trism. It’s a great pop track but also shows how inventive and eclectic Ricky Wilson’s guitar work was becoming. The 50s twang was being expanded into FM friendly riffs and licks. What a talent he was.
There is a difference from the original release, which featured a cover of Yoko Ono’s Don’t Worry, Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow).
Legal issues, however, saw this removed on later pressings and replaced by Moon 83, a synthed up 80s version of There’s a Moon in the Sky (Called the Moon). A filler track, but one with merit.
The departure in sound here could have gone array. But thanks to production from Steven Stanley it sounds fresh and fun and I challenge anyone not to at least smile during Song for a Future Generation. Stanley’s other credits include Tom Tom Club, Black Uhuru and Grace Jones.
Keith takes additional guitar and keyboard credits on this album. Remember that guitar credit for a couple of albums down the line. Also note Ricky’s expanded guitar work here.
By Joe Lepper