The B-52's - Cosmic Thing: 30th Anniversary Expanded Edition - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The B-52's - Cosmic Thing: 30th Anniversary Expanded Edition

by James Weiskittel Rating:10 Release Date:2019-06-28
The B-52's - Cosmic Thing: 30th Anniversary Expanded Edition
The B-52's - Cosmic Thing: 30th Anniversary Expanded Edition

The B-52’s had already enjoyed their fair share of success by the time they got ready to release what would be their fifth album, but in many ways, Cosmic Thing was a make or break moment for the Athens-based band. While their first three records had positioned the B-52s as one of the best that new-wave had to offer, the group was dealt a huge blow when guitarist Ricky Wilson tragically passed away during the recording of Bouncing Off the Satellites, a well-intentioned, albeit misguided effort that revealed a band floundering in the wake of Wilson’s loss.

But the B-52's retooled and returned three years later with what would be their biggest success to date. Despite the rotating producer’s chair (duties were split between Nile Rogers and Don Was), Cosmic Thing wound up being one of the band’s most sonically cohesive records to date. Lean, mean, and hook-driven from start to finish, Cosmic Thing’s ten tracks were tailor-made for radio.

Built around real instruments, a ton of melody, and glossy production, Cosmic Thing represented a sea-change for the band. Mind you, those elements had been there in the past, but never before had they been so uniformly applied to a B52's record. 

While the album’s first single “Channel Z” received moderate airplay, it’s real purpose was to set the stage for the band’s major crossover success (by way of “Love Shack” and “Roam”). To that point, for all of its air-wave saturation at the time, “Love Shack” is just as infectious today as it was three decades ago. The song is not only a perfect encapsulation of the B-52's sound, but it also helped the band finally cross over from the college-rock charts to the mainstream. 

Before it was destined to become synonymous with car commercials, “Roam” was the record’s second straight top-ten hit (peaking at number 3 on the Billboard Top 100). And for my money, this is easily the record’s standout track. From the damn-near sublime vocal interplay between Pierson and Wilson to Keith Strickland’s haunting, effects-laden guitar work, the melancholic overtones of the song are the perfect counterpoint the rest of the record’s day-at-the-beach vibe.

Other highlights include the up-tempo album-opener “Cosmic Thing,” the infectious “Junebug,” and the surf-guitar workout “Follow Your Bliss” - although, in what is perhaps the greatest testament to this record, an argument could be made for nearly every song in this collection. 

As for this 30th-anniversary package, the set includes the obligatory B-sides, remixes, as well as a second disc entitled, Live at The Pavilion, The Woodlands, TX, 1990. It’s all interesting to hear, and fans of the album should definitely check it out. While the remastering has rendered the Cosmic Thing much ‘hotter’, it’s far less offensive than some of the other recent ‘big name’ reissues I can think of, and it certainly sounds good on my phone (which is probably the real goal nowadays).

It’s debatable whether or not Cosmic Thing needed a ‘deluxe-edition’ re-issue (and honestly, the same could be said for most of these at this point), but this album’s thirtieth anniversary is still a great excuse to revisit what is debatably the B-52's at their peak.

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