"The good news here is that in 2017, Pere Ubu still sound like Pere Ubu"
Quoting a band’s press release is hardly pin-sharp critique, but I have to share this with the world: “David Thomas says ‘To my way of thinking, the new album is The James Gang teaming up with Tangerine Dream. Or something like that”.
“Or something like that” – well, as this is Pere Ubu we’re dealing with, of course “20 Years In A Montana Missile Silo” sounds nothing like Joe Walsh jamming with Edgar Froese – in fact it sounds like nothing else at all, really, unless you’ve heard another clarinet-driven punk rock/post punk/ post rock/alt rock/art rock/art punk combo doing the rounds, in which case, drop me an email as a matter of urgency, please.
David Thomas (the bands only constant member since the bands inception in – whisper it – 1975) really does not give a good godamn about what’s “hot and happening” in the music biz of 2017. If he wants to record some minimal four-chord-thrasharama like “Monkey Bizness” and make it sound like Captain Beefheart backed up by The Minutemen, he’ll do exactly that. Or write another song called “Funk 49” which sounds more like Devo than the James Gang. You just have to let him do his thing.
The Pere Ubu of 2017 is a crack bunch of musicians who can coax a wide palette of sounds and styles from their instruments. In “Plan From Frag 9” (nope, I haven’t got a clue either) they turn in a very passable ‘B -Movie Horror pastiche, while Thomas winds his sprechgesang around it. “Red Eye Blues” is another piece of early punk rock, but it’s crammed with lovely little details. It would have been nice if the guitars had been slightly more unhinged and manic, but that’s a moot point. A Steve Albini-produced Pere Ubu album would be a beautiful thing.
“The Healer” is almost – shock horror – a ballad. A weird, twisty ballad, but a ballad none the less. It may not get Barry Manilow reaching for his cheque book, but it’s a nice calm interlude in a pretty turbulent record.
The good news here is that in 2017, Pere Ubu still sound like Pere Ubu. The cast of characters may change, but there’s a clear connection between “20 Years In A Montana Missile Silo” and “The Modern Dance.” The band could have made endless variations on “Non-Alignment Pact” and joined the punk rock supper club circuit, but I can’t imagine David Thomas standing for something so mundane. My only criticism is that the album is a little restrained where maybe it could have been rawer, but we all know what opinions are like, don’t we?
“Seems I’m a victim of natural selection” sang D.T. in 1976. Yep…I’ll go along with that.