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Rhythm & Views

The B-52s

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Let's put into perspective how long ago The B-52s' first "comeback" album, 1989's Cosmic Thing, was released: A lovechild from a one-night stand inspired by a Bartles and Jaymes-fueled karaoke performance of "Love Shack" is now old enough to make the same mistake, to the same song, as a freshman at an '80s-themed frat party this semester. (Substitute "tub of appletinis" for "Bartles and Jaymes.")

It'd be a tall order to expect The B-52s' second comeback album, Funplex, to have the shelf-life of Cosmic, but Funplex is a worthy competitor.

All four of the Kings of Kitsch (or Queens of Camp) are on board for Funplex, with help from New Order producer Steve Osborne. Osborne gives the album a modern touch, but wisely puts Keith Strickland's uniquely tuned guitar up front in the mix. Funplex even sees the welcome return of the '60s Farfisa organ sound of early B-52s classics.

Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson are, as usual, Funplex's MVPs. The duo add character to party rave-ups "Pump" and "Ultraviolet"; the elevating harmonies of "Juliet of the Spirits" come close to Cosmic's "Topaz"; and they save tracks like "Eyes Wide Open" and "Love in the Year 3000" from an overdose of whatever Fred Schneider's increasingly creepy persona is trying to slip into your drink.

Lyrically, Funplex is lacking, and the album filler at the end begs for a selective iTunes purchase, but, hey--after a few appletinis, you won't know the difference.

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