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The B-52s still dancing 'Rock Lobster' around



When The B-52s began work on their first studio album in more than 15 years, the bandmates expected to whip up their singular brand of vibrant, dance-happy kitsch.

What they didn't anticipate was how, well, horny the songs would sound. And the resulting album, last year's "Funplex," is chock full of references to belly-licking, G-spots and the like and the band's members wound up with their most sex-centric record to date.

That suggestion makes Cindy Wilson, one of the group's two female singers, erupt in laughter.

"We did stream-of-consciousness for (the lyrics), and sex kept popping up," she said. "After a while, we were looking at the songs and saying, 'Oh, no, all the songs are about sex!' But they have an element of sex mixed in with a lot of imagination and imagery."

If there's one thing The B-52s have never skimped on, it's effort. Nearly 30 years after bursting on to the New Wave scene with such delightfully weird surf/dance confections as "Rock Lobster," "Private Idaho" and "Dance This Mess Around," the act is still shimmying and shaking its way through unabashedly giddy party music, which stages 8 p.m. Sunday show at Norman's Riverwind Casino.

Perhaps the most startling aspect of "Funplex," The B-52s' first original studio record in 16 years, is how completely modern it sounds while still exuding the Day-Glo charm of what made them among the 1980s' most iconic rock bands. Infectious party anthems like "Juliet of the Spirits," "Hot Corner" and the title track defy you not to jump, strut and bop.

Still, the group's musical agelessness did not alter the fact that the music business, mired in downloads and declining record sales, has changed mightily since the band's foundation after a rum cocktail-fueled Chinese restaurant outing in 1976 Athens, Ga.. Without a recording label, the outfit " Wilson, Kate Pierson, Fred Schneider and Keith Strickland " had to finance the recording of "Funplex" themselves, working on and off for four years.

"It's just so different from when we started," said Wilson, now 52. "It's a new game. You don't sell major records unless you're really, really lucky. That's the reality."

That hasn't always been the case, of course. The B-52s, whose name refers to the towering bouffant wigs that Wilson and Pierson sported in the group's early days, enjoyed blockbuster success in 1989 with "Cosmic Thing," which sold more than 4 million copies thanks hits such as "Love Shack," "Roam" and "Deadbeat Club."

The B-52s traveled to New York from Georgia, landing gigs at seminal clubs Max's Kansas City and CBGB's. Amid the emerging punk scene and its free-floating rage, the act's good-time sensibility, Wilson and Pierson's perky harmonies and Schneider's carny-barker vocals proved irresistible. The energy and enthusiasm that characterized The B-52s of that era, Wilson said, have hardly dissipated.

"We definitely bounce off the energy of the crowd," she said. "Sometimes you've got to go on stage even if you have the flu. But you get this energy from the crowd.

"It's very healing. It's a great job to have. It's really wonderful to see the joy in people's eyes, and you give it right back."

The B-52s perform at 8 p.m. Sunday at Riverwind Casino, 1544 W. State Highway 9 in Norman. "Phil Bacharach

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