The B-52's were one of the great new wave bands, one of the ones who defined the style and cut one of the great records of their time (their eponymous debut), an outfit who maintained a dedicated following even as they fell off the radar of critics and hipsters, a group who overcame a tragic loss (guitarist Ricky Wilson) to make a startling, unpredictable comeback that launched them beyond college radio and to the top of the pop charts. It's a hell of a story, even if the final act was decidedly anticlimatic (after one follow-up to the Cosmic Thing comeback, 1992's Good Stuff, the group essentially disappeared apart from an embarrassing version of the Flintstones theme for the 1993 big-screen adaptation), and they're easily one of the more legendary bands of their time. Unfortunately, legend doesn't always translate to great music, and the fact of the matter is that the B-52's really only had two very good records: the transcendent debut and the comeback. The second record had its share of moments, more than the other albums that followed, and there were some sublime cuts scattered among the other records, but by and large they were a band who got by on their brilliant moments -- brilliant moments that were surrounded by competence and mediocrity. It really was the kind of career that could be salvaged and justified by a tremendous double-disc retrospective -- which Nude on the Moon: The B-52's Anthology unfortunately isn't. Make no mistake, it's pretty good and it has a lot of their greatest moments, but it stumbles at certain points, letting seminal songs like "Quiche Lorraine" or "Mesopotamia" be represented by alternate takes (1990 live take and remix, respectively), and padding it toward the end with album tracks that aren't that interesting. That's the worst thing about this lavish, lovingly produced set; no matter the care of the sound and presentation, there are just too many songs that are just average, not quite illustrating why the B-52's are so beloved. Of course, that's the fault of the band themselves, who never quite lived up to their early promise, but it would still be possible to jigger the final recordings to an artificial narrative, the kind that would show why people love this band. This isn't it; no matter the testimonials, the interviews in the comprehensive booklet, the great photos, or just the general warm vibe this Georgian band -- perhaps the greatest Georgian musical act this side of Jerry Reed or R.E.M. -- gives off. And that's because the material just isn't there. No matter their legacy, they have enough terrific material for a comprehensive single-disc set, not a double-disc set, and while this is more comprehensive and better-produced than the single-disc compilations, most listeners will find they'll skip over most of the material just to get to the good stuff from The B-52's and Cosmic Thing.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2