As with their first album, the B-52's traveled to Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas to record Wild Planet. Several of the songs from the album had been concert staples since 1978. The band deliberately did not record them for their first album because they had too many tracks and wanted a strong second album, knowing that performing the tracks live would make fans look forward to it.Rhett Davies co-produced the album, and more emphasis was put on production for Wild Planet.Wild Planet was quickly certified gold. Film director Gus Van Sant thanks the band in the credits of the 1991 film My Own Private Idaho for the use of the song title "Private Idaho". The song itself is not referred to anywhere in the movie.
Billboard gave the album a positive review, calling it an improvement over the band's debut album and "a cinch for hot rotation in rock-oriented discos". On the other hand, Robert Christgau found it less of a danceable success than its predecessor, writing in The Village Voice in March 1981: "'Party Out of Bounds' and 'Quiche Lorraine' are expert entertainments at best and the wacko parochialism of 'Private Idaho' is a positive annoyance. Only on 'Devil in My Car' and 'Give Me Back My Man' do they exploit the potential for meaning—cosmic and emotional, respectively—that accrues to the world's greatest new-wave kiddie-novelty disco-punk band."Rolling Stone magazine's Frank Rose also felt that it "plainly lacks the relentless exuberance of the group's debut disc", which he considered "partly a result of the production: flatter and duller sounding than its predecessor".