It's hard to imagine today's dance-rock landscape without The B-52s, and it's equally hard to imagine Funplex, the band's ninth album in a nearly 30-year career, without today's dance-rock landscape. Or without yesterday's: The album's assured highlight, "Eyes Wide Open," opens like the DFA remix of Gorillaz's "Dare," but by the time it's over, it feels as much like a New Order song.
The major difference is, of course, the singing. Fred Schneider still natters on; sometimes it's daft ("Tentative tentacles are grabbing me / We're making space love in zero gravity," from "Love in the Year 3000"), sometimes a hoot (on "Funplex," droning a shopping list: "candelabras and a Wonderbra"). But the heart of the group is Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson, sometimes separately, but more often together. Maybe it's the extensive touring they've done in the 15 years since the last B-52s album, maybe it's studio electronics (if so, they're subtle), but Pierson and Wilson soar here, and often take the songs with them.
That material is sometimes far too automatic for its own good—see "Deviant Ingredient," which is as trite as its title portends. But on "Eyes Wide Open" and the lustrous "Juliet Of The Spirits," a Pierson/Wilson song as strong as any they've done in mystic mode, the songs are up to the legend, and should sound as good at the B-52s' joyous shows.