After the kitsch triumph of their eponymous debut album from 1979 (which contained keynote track Rock Lobster) and its follow-up Wild Planet (1980), by 1983 Athens, Georgia, five-piece The B-52’s were attempting to consolidate on their success. Talking Heads frontman David Byrne was originally chosen to work on their third full-length studio album, but after alleged conflicts the sessions were aborted and the EP Mesopotamia was released as a stopgap. On this EP original drummer Keith Strickland expanded his arsenal of instruments to include guitar, bass, marimba and synths; by Whammy! the band had switched to a drum machine with Strickland and guitarist/bassist Ricky Wilson playing everything on the record and the rest of the band relegated to providing vocals. 

Whammy! was considered something of a return to form – a dancey update of their signature sound. The urgent drums and moody keyboards of Whammy Kiss are a highlight, as is the kooky charm of Butterbean, and the delay-drenched guitars and tongue-in-cheek vocals of Kate Pierson and Fred Schneider on the perky Song For A Future Generation. Over the years, Whammy!’s reputation has steadily improved. Ben Wener of The Spectator put it best when he labelled it “an overlooked gem”.

Steve Harnell

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