The Skinny: Whammy! is a fun record, even if it lacks the inventiveness and the organic ensemble feel of the band’s first three releases. If you were about 20-years old and pretty stoned in 1983, you probably dug it the most. Only “Song for a Future Generation” seems to show up on compilations, so you’ll need this to get the other little gems.
Sounds like: Oingo Boingo, The Go-Go’s, The Cars, Thomas Dolby, Thompson Twins, Berlin, DiVinyls
Deeper Thoughts: The cover says it all: The band went to the Bahamas and did a lot of blow (even the dog). Oh yeah, and they also made this record. Here, the B-Fifties were moving out of their classic, kitschy-weird period and seem to be trying to snuggle up to the early-80s mainstream. It did reach #29 on the Billboard chart, but in retrospect it sounds like a whacky vocal group with a couple of Casio PT-1 synthesizers wrestling in the background. You get plenty of wigs, boy/girl-call and response vocals and a dash of the late Ricky Wilson’s signature Mosrite/Ventures guitar twang. “Legal Tender” and “Whammy Kiss” are solid singles, along with “Song for a Future Generation” (Hey! I’m Kate and I am a Taurus…). And Kate Pierson’s standout lead vocal on “Queen of Las Vegas,” which foreshadowed her later work with Iggy Pop and REM. Interestingly, the original seventh track (song 3 on side 2 of the record), “Don’t Worry,” was pulled from later releases due to a copyright dispute with Yoko Ono (who knew?). It was replaced on this disc with “Moon 83,” a warmed over version of “There’s a Moon in the Sky (Called the Moon)” from their debut record.
The Sonics: Sounds like shit, actually. A mass-produced disc from the 80s and it shows. There is a ton of keyboards and synthesizer noodling on every tune. There doesn’t seem to be any bass guitar on the record and very little in the way of real drum sounds. A lot of shrill and brittle highs atop farty, wimpy low frequency action. It kind of wants to be a dance record, but lacks the requisite thump. Fun in the car at loud volumes, but fatiguing if you listen to the entire record. Having said that, audiophile sonics were never their M.O. This disc probably doesn’t sound significantly better (or worse) than a streaming ear bud experience.