There's only one genre of pop music that can never be revived in earnest. You simply have to go to the source.

All other styles—from art rock to rockabilly, psych, folk, soul, and '70s rock—have been recycled on the up-and-up and, for that matter, continue to be serious items (with slightly different names these days) in the 21st-century niche bin. But try rebooting the slightly spastic, romantic, and campy new-wave rock explosion of the late '70s and you will fail.

You'd never know it from their successful, radio-friendly comeback in the late '80s (starring the execrable "Roam" and "Love Shack"), but the B-52's, with their midnight-movie ideals, jagged electric guitars, and punk vocals, were the most inimitable band from that quirked-out and all-too-brief era.

For a surprising punk edge, check out the B-52's eponymous 1979 debut (aka "the yellow album"). It's famous for the campy hit "Rock Lobster," but it's the Kmart barre-chord electric-guitar riffs and spat-out lyrics—"Hero Worship" and "52 Girls" are the standouts—that give the album a "we are fucking serious" octane that the "we are goofing" Ramones never matched.

And it is that realization, that the B-52s were fucking serious about their monster-movie shtick, that they meant it when they sang—no, pleaded—"Don't go on the patio, beware of the pool," that makes their histrionic pose legitimate and beautiful.

And it's the B-52's second album, 1980's Wild Planet (aka "the red album"), that finds the B-52s in their most serious mood.

Wild Planet is practically an art-rock album, featuring off-kilter drum-machine samples (hinting at their follow-up work with David Byrne two years later), syncopated tape loops, vocal acrobatics (Kate Pierson is a thrift-store diva), dissonant guitar clangs, and an ambient dance-ballad finale. And so all the Ray Davies riffing and dramatic whoa-whoas share more with David Lynch films than with Annette Funicello films.

Haunted tracks like "Dirty Back Road," sexy rhythm tracks like "Give Me Back My Man," statement-of-purpose tracks like "Party Gone Out of Bounds," and tube-amp smoke outs like "Devil in My Car" extend the seedy '70s into the prefab '80s with an artistic cynicism that was eventually abandoned and obscured by a flood of lesser new-wave acts. When the closing song fades with the spooky chant "53 miles west of Venus/53 miles west of Venus," you know no one is following, nor is capable of it. The band itself couldn't even mimic the sound. Thankfully, it's on record.