Music » Critics' Picks

The B-52's

Saturday, July 17; Gateway Arch Stage, St. Louis Riverfront

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Although you may only know the B-52's from "Love Shack," the Athens, Georgia-based band in its early years was one of the most innovative and electrifying bands of the American '80s new-wave movement. While New York was churning out furrow-browed art punk and Los Angeles was fueling itself on defiant anger, the B-52's were tucked away in the South merging electricity with celebration. The band harnessed the power of the Farfisa organ, guitar and a dance beat with the double-whammy punch of female vocalists Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson to create a girl-group levity, then tossed in weirdo Fred Schneider. "Rock Lobster," of course, is the band's anthem, but that pales next to the fury of "52 Girls" and "Strobe Light" or the sex of "Lava." After the B-52's' first two records, both classics, the group discovered rhythm (thanks in part to David Byrne, who produced their overlooked gem Mesopotamia) and faded from the limelight -- a shame, because 1984's Whammy is as good as the group's debut. Those only familiar with "Rock Lobster" or "Roam" can be forgiven for dismissing the band as a novelty act, but place the B-52's' self-titled debut alongside the Faint, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or !!!, and you'll hear the echoes of a band whose joyful influence grows greater with time.

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