"I guess I must be the only person in the world who thinks Mesopotamia was the B-52's finest achievement. Don't get me wrong, I love their other stuff, and to this day listen to them often. They are their own selves. Completely original. But with Mesopotamia, they stretched beyond even their own ziggy boundaries, and reached, for lack of a better word, some kind of "zone." This is not an easy album. I think I must have listened to it about ten times before I "got" it. But it's worth the patience. Maybe the best thing to do is to start with the beat. Don't be distracted by anything else. Just the beat. The rest will come later. "Loveland." Throbbing, pounding bass, the minor note, and you are there. How can you stay off your feet? And listen to Kate Pierson. She has never sounded better. Passionate. Savage. Beautiful. Angry. "Loveland?" I suppose. This is where I fell in love with Kate Pierson. Then "Deep Sleep," which is mostly a hypnotic kind of psychadelic thing, but again with the great back beat, and dreamy sultry vocals. These women, you think, they are like sirens. The next two songs are the B-52's at the apex of their career. Mesopotamia is again a great rock song, with the trademark brilliant female harmonies, and here comes Fred Schneider, with his hilarious, absurdist lyrics. You'll note he is a great stylist as well, contributing greatly to the beat with his vocals, in the tradition of the greatest rock'n'roll singers. The song would still be wonderful, but this sense of timing puts it on another plane. And then we come to "Cake." There has never been a song in the history of rock'n'roll like "Cake." What is it about? It is about baking a cake. What's so special about that? Well, these girls sing more passionately about baking a cake than anybody ever sang about anything. Peace, injustice, war, hunger. You want passion? Listen to "Cake." Oh, and then maybe think about irony. This is where I fell in love with both Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson. And with what skill! The B-52's have always been famous for their harmonies but on this album, and on this song, they are mind-boggling. They must have practiced singing this song--God, I don't know--hundreds of times. More. I try to sing along with them every time and, well, forget it. And again you have the pounding, danceable beat, with horns and guitars and keyboard. I never get tired of this. It just hasn't happened. There is no other rock band in the world which sounds like this. Like them, at their peak. The last two songs are excellent, ("Throw that Beat in the Garbage Can,") and you will love them, but they can not match the spectacularity of the first four. (Only six songs on the whole thing! Nooooooo!)So what happened here? Was it David Byrne, the producer? I don't know. I've never been a big fan of him or his band. He played a part though. Sometimes it is pointless to ask. But they hit greatness here. Somehow. They hit it."
A big fan's big disappointment
Jason Knapp | New York, NY, USA | 09/12/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"When pop artists work entirely on instinct, the results can be inexplicably good. It's often hard to take apart the pieces and explain what makes the whole thing so wonderful, because it feels like the music sprang up, fully grown, right out of the band's collective brain. And that's the way most of the B-52's music feels: inspired, soulful and really nuts.
But this double-EP is a good example of how too much thought can destroy a work of instinct. The remixes for "Party Mix!" are just annoying, but easy to dismiss, since you're getting "Mesopotamia" on the same CD. But I was just crest-fallen when I got this disc home and listened to one of the most brilliant pieces of early-80s pop gone sour.
I'd heard that the band didn't like the results of Mesopotamia's original production and felt that it sounded more like David Byrne, their producer, than their own work. But Byrne took the band's wonderful qualities and pushed them in a new and unexpected direction. It was a very successful experiment.
For the CD release, the band went back and re-mixed the whole EP, dumbing down the hard, syncopated percussion, adding cheesy echoes and reverbs, and just cutting time out of some tracks all together. The result is an uncomfortable grafting of bad pop clichés onto the stark original. It doesn't sound like the original or like the B-52's better music. Fortunately, for those of us who still have decent vinyl copies of the original, we can rip our own CDs and pray they come to their senses in time to release the original version."
Mesopotamia: B-52's peak, badly remixed
journeyman | Lexington, MA United States | 08/11/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I agree with Paul McGrath: Mesopotamia is The B-52's at their peak. Mesopotamia on vinyl propels me uncontrollably out of my chair to dance. Kate Pierson's unchecked exhuberance is enough to bring tears to your eyes. Gawd they're having a blast, and it's perfectly off-centered and beat-underlayed in production by David Byrne. This was a meeting of artists in their prime, an unrepeatable moment.I don't know *what* Tom Durack was thinking when he desiccated this dripping-wet masterpiece in a 1990 remix that saps it almost completely of its original fulgent energy. Dammit man, I don't need to hear every word of the lyrics!I'll use this as a vinyl-preserver, playing it when I'm doing dishes or in the car. But life's too short -- when I wanna jump, I'm going with the version I need to turn over in the middle."
To try and clarify
John Michael Lynch | Ireland | 03/21/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Leaving aside Party Mix which was fairly inspired at the time but a bit superflous now, Mesopotamia has a bit of a back history. This is my understanding of it, feel free to correct me if i got it wrong, I would like to know for sure myself
The original album was released in America on Warner records and in Europe on Island records. Apparently there was a mix-up in sending the master tapes trans-atlantic and Island ended up with three songs (loveland, cake and throw that beat) in extended form. Maybe unfinished mixes or maybe different takes, no-one seems to be sure.
When it was re-released the Island records version uses the original Warner release (albeit with a misprinted cover saying the album contains an extra song, lava, which it doesn't). This, the Warner records re-release, contains the same Warner Version, but remixed. the changes aren't huge but are noticeable. The songs were not cut or shortened, they just do not use the extended Island records versions that some people who bought it originally are used to.
Hope this clears up some of the confusion in the reviews."