Though she’s been a shining spectacle of punk, pop and disco for more than 30 years, Kate Pierson of the B52s hadn’t put out a solo release until now. To commemorate the feat, we’re doing a track-by-track exploration of the album that features collaborations with Sia, Nick Valensi of the Strokes and Dallas Austin.
1) “Throw Down the Roses” “I don’t want to be a Fender guitar played by a rock star/Don’t string me along,” sings Pierson on the mid-tempo opener. It’s a coy anthem for women in music, standing up against those who think the fairer sex can’t hold their own in the pit and onstage.
2) “Mister Sister” Accentuated by a Santigold-like bass line, this ode to the transgendered population is true to Pierson’s disco roots. Though, as many have pointed out, the lyrics can be perceived as outdated and insensitive— it sounds like she’s assuming all transgendered women find solace in makeup and lace.
3) “Guitars and Microphones” A fuzzy boom box and chimes hopscotch around beats that Bloc Party would have nabbed circa 2005. Pierson sounds melodramatic and theatrical on an otherwise bland pogo-pop song.
4) “Crush Me With Your Love” The normally giddy artist takes us on a journey inside the mind of the lovelorn. She croons of “Squirrels in my head,” which is pretty corny, but the gargantuan melody and dreamy synths allow “Crush Me With Your Love” to soar.
5) “Bottoms Up” One of the more modern-sounding tunes on Guitars and Microphones, Pierson goes Gwen Stefani and spits a bunch of party-savvy rhymes. That angular string work could only be from Nick Valensi, whose time in the Strokes has made him a king of taut rock. Kudos to Pierson for letting him do his thing here.
6) “Bring Your Arms” A P!nk popper co-written by Sia. It’s saccharine and non-threatening, an un-urgent call to arms with maddening operatic backing vocals.
7) “Wolves” We dig the imagery of a “barbed-wire heart,” but “Wolves” comes off like a dozy Bangles retread. It feels like faux longing, something out of a subversive indie romance. Here, Pierson’s comical side gets the best of her.
8) “Matrix” The most “Roam”-y song off Guitars and Microphones, “Matrix” suggests we “must trust the universe… don’t fear the furor.” It also mentions beaches in space and other cosmic things. The number gets a little too thinky for its own good, but it’s another that goes well with the B52s repertoire.
9) “Time Wave Zero” It’s an awfully happy tune about the apocalypse. “Time Wave Zero,” all hand claps and warbling, acts as an accompaniment to “Matrix.” “As long as we’re together when the end is near,” she muses, brushing off impending doom. If it’s all going to collapse, might as well dance.
10) “Pulls You Under” This barroom ballad is Kate Pierson’s “Piano Man.” “The prison is your skin, but you shed it tonight,” she sings with a heartbreaking shakiness. After a whole album of goofy empowerment and DayGlo rhythms, “Pulls You Under” demands your attention. It shows what an asset Pierson is to rock music history.
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