Dance This Mess Around: The B-52's - "There's a Moon in the Sky (Called the Moon)"

"Moon" isn't a bad song by any means, but when surrounded by so many notable home runs, it feels like the odd man out, a b-side that snuck its way onto the album's actual b-side.

The B-52's

The B-52's

Label: Island
US Release Date: 1979-07-06

If this Between the Grooves series has gone out to prove anything, it's that crystallized inside the recording of the B-52's first album is a nervy, gritty, and surprisingly supple New Wave energy that was wacky as it was sexy, smart as it was fun, kitsch as it was considered. It is a near-flawless album, and one of the greatest pop discs ever made. Although there were still great songs throughout their career (and a very decent attempt to reclaim what made this 1979 disc special with their 1980 follow-up Wild Planet), the nine tracks that make up this eponymous effort are as close to perfect as you could possibly get.

Yet, if there is a single "weak track" to be found on The B-52's, it would be the second song on this LP's b-side: "There's a Moon in the Sky (Called the Moon)".

Obviously, the song's faults aren't in the title, because that is an incredible name for a song. Instead, what makes "Moon" suffer in comparison to so many great, iconic tracks is exactly that: context. Had a song of this nature been included on 1983's Whammy! or 1986's Bouncing Off the Satellites, it would've been an immediate highlight. However, within the context of the album, "Moon" unfortunately comes off more as a pastiche of other great elements we've already heard on the disc, lacking that "wow" factor that makes every other song here an absolute keeper.

Right from the opening keyboard riff, we hear immediate aural echoes of "Planet Claire", the album's epic opener, and as Ricky Wilson's guitar strums come into play, we realize something is a little different this time around: the keyboard is used as the lead instrument, with Wilson simply adding a bit of color and texture. While, on a pure sonic level, one would imagine that this switching of instrument leads would make for a nice break in the action, it actually does the exact opposite effect, pushing forth a main melody that is far blander than anything else on the disc.

There are two reasons as to why this is the case: for one, Fred Schneider, for all his personality, is not a great keyboardist, but knows a good deal about texturing. The single-note rhythmic pulse he adds to "Lava", the surprisingly effective toy piano plinks that color "Dance This Mess Around" -- these are all elements that give the songs depth and character. Here, the riff plays out its welcome mighty fast, which leads us to the second reason why "Moon" lacks the shine that makes the rest of the LP glow: a restrained Ricky Wilson. With his unique key changes, his well-considered arpeggios, and his subtle changes to his guitar tone, Wilson ultimately makes the best B-52's song absolutely shine, interjecting with a unique identity that was easy to appreciate but hard to imitate. By being relegated to mere rhythm guitarist here, his charm as an instrumentalist is put on a tight muzzle, and the song suffers as a result.

What's more, on a lyrical front, we don't hear the same absurdist buy-in that makes the rest of the group's non sequiturs sound as surprisingly grounded as they are. The angry rebuttal Schneider gives during "Planet Claire", the vague peek into the world of a woman scorned on "Dance This Mess Around", etc. -- every song on this album had at least one emotional or somewhat jarring element that gave the disc its tension. On "Moon", it's just all wackiness up and down without any sense of center. There's a party on the moon with all the other planets showing up, you shouldn't feel out of place, etc. It's the start of an inclusionary lyrical trope that the group would go back to time and time again (most notably on "Love Shack"), but even "Rock Lobster" started only slightly off-kilter before going into its delightfully nonsensical throes. Here, there's no level changes in the imagery -- it's all standard-issue weird from the get-go, with no discernible peak.

Yet, this by itself doesn't make "Moon" a bad song, no. In terms of its quality, it feels like it would actually sound right at home on the fairly confused Whammy!, but when surrounded by so many notable home runs, "Moon" feels like the odd man out, a b-side that snuck its way onto the album's actual b-side. While there's nothing inherently wrong with it, one does with it somewhat stuck up for itself more or at least was given a little bit more time inside the songwriting oven. As it stands, it's only a lesser moment on The B-52's, but in truth, how could it not be when surrounded by peaks as glorious as these?

Previous installments:


*"Planet Claire"

*"52 Girls"

*"Dance This Mess Around"

*"Rock Lobster"


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.