Mesopotamia

The B-52’s

1982: Island 846 239-2


  1. Loveland
  2. Deep Sleep
  3. Mesopotamia
  4. Cake
  5. Throw That Beat in the Garbage Can
  6. Nip It in the Bud

NOT the Party Mix edition of the album, which I also have, this is the original. I was appalled when I heard the other version, because it “cleaned up” the sound on many tracks I’d come to enjoy in their murkier forms. If you have despaired because you were stuck with the remixed version, just keep hunting…the real thing’s out there.

That’s assuming you really, really want this album…and probably only seriously devoted B’s fans will. Of all their records, this is the one most desperately in need of a lyrics sheet, as the bulk of the vocals are either sloppy or made indistinct by the passionless tedium of the rhythm tracks. It sounds like there were some fun song ideas being tried out but not taken to completion (or possibly worked to death); as a result “Nip It in the Bud” is the only track that really sounds like the B’s, and the others like the various members of the group were doing guest spots on some other band’s album. “Deep Sleep” brings the album down dreadfully, all the more unfortunate because the kickoff track isn’t particularly lively and drags on to its close almost with embarrassment.

I do find the title track amusing enough to justify keeping this at hand, plus it has a compelling enchantment in the form of Kate and Cindy’s strange counterpart harmonies on the chorus (and “Nip It in the Bud” too, even if I can only guess at what’s being sung), and “Cake” is *nearly* there and at least funny at moments. Actually, it’s worth noting that those title-track harmonies present a fascinating and unexpected contrast in that the same sustained notes provide an enigmatically dark sound in one register but then also trumpet a shrill cultural primitivism an octave higher in the same song (the latter including the vocal dyad on which the track ends a C-major one positioned against the D-minor base of the song).

Mesopotamia also has circumstantial charms: I personally hear it as being in a very mid-’80s moment in my own life, not corresponding to when I actually first heard the track. It presents an atmosphere of unparalleled oddity in which quirkiness is catchily cool—a sound I want to hear playing at a party I’m hosting in a little rented house outfitted with representations of my own quirks, with party guests having lovely moments here and there in those contexts I’ve provided. That is, for me, viscerally what B-52s’s music is: the soundtrack to informal parties you wish you were at.


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