The B-52's were one of several late-'70s bands for which there was no real category. With their modified surf guitar sound, their thrift-shop fashion sense, and their jokey demeanor, they certainly weren't in the rock & roll mainstream, but they exhibited none of punk's sneering rebelliousness or musical aggression, either � the only anarchy that seemed to interest the B-52's was of the sartorial variety. "Rock Lobster" was the first B-52's song to catch popular attention, and it's easy to see why. The minimalist guitar lick is like a beach-bum's rendition of the James Bond theme, the one-note organ ostinato complements it perfectly, and Fred Scheider's campy sprechgesang jumps out at you immediately. Yet despite the song's self-consciously weird texture and silly lyrics about earlobes falling off and communal towel coordination, there's a thread of darkness weaving through it. Make no mistake � this is not a song with hidden meaning lurking below the surface. But its surface is a little more complicated than it seems to be at first. For one thing, it's almost seven minutes long, and it does start to drag toward the end. Right when it does, you notice the mood getting darker � Schneider delivers lines about "having fun" and "baking in the sun" in a hoarse croak, and the guitar starts sounding repetitive in a slightly creepy way. Suddenly you realize that the whole song has been in a minor key, and as Schneider shouts and the guitar barks out its angular riff over and over, you start to wonder if maybe there's some kind of commentary going on here. But then Kate Pierson's angelic voice comes in with a surprisingly pretty falling harmony part that can only be described as a descant, which repeats several times, gradually paring itself down to a single phrase, and abruptly the song is over. The whole song ends up being a goofy party confection with a slightly crunchy center � a pretty satisfying overall flavor combination.
Simple Mind's second single, "Chelsea Girl", was an apt follow-up to its predecessor "Life in a Day", an epic chant, a shimmering melody, and a sing-along chorus that paid spell-bound homage to Velvet Underground chanteuse Nico, in her role within Warhol�s movie of the same name.
Producer John Leckie gives "Chelsea Girl" a lovely delicate quality, especially across the long, tinkling keyboard intro, an aura that barely dissipates even when drummer Brian McGee and bassist Derek Forbes's kick in with their thumping rhythm. The band were proving to be masters at these juxtaposed styles, creating rock solid bases and overlaying them with much more fragile and elegant melodies and atmospheres. Here, those latter are close to effervescent and, as the band shift down into the long bass-driven, overlapping tag teamed vocal outro (a playful lift from Roxy Music�s �Mother Of Pearl�, but no matter), absolutely crystalline.
On album and onstage, �Chelsea Girl� remained fans' favorite, on 45 though, it inexplicably crashed and burned, and didn't even reach the UK chart.