Monday, January 8, 2018

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Pere Ubu : Nonalignment Pact

One week in and we've already got our first classic rock album of 1978! Released in January of 1978, Pere Ubu's debut album, The Modern Dance, is one part avant garde art experiment, one part psychic breakdown, one part garage-style rock 'n'roll...often leaping between these three shades several times within the same song.

The album begins with an ear bleeding synthesized siren. That, my friends, is how you do it.

Most of the members of Pere Ubu had roots in the Cleveland proto-punk band Rocket From the Tombs.  The smarter members went to Pere Ubu. The others founded The Dead Boys.  

Of this classic example of a "grower" Robert Christgau wrote:

Ubu's music is nowhere near as willful as it sounds at first. Riffs emerge from the cacophony, David Thomas's shrieking suits the heterodox passion of the lyrics, and the synthesizer noise begins to cohere after a while. So even though there's too much Radio Ethiopia and not enough Redondo Beach, I'll be listening through the failed stuff--the highs are worth it, and the failed stuff ain't bad. A-

Ken Tucker wrote the review for Rolling Stone :

Pere Ubu's The Modern Dance is harsh and willfully ugly, yet always mindful of certain rock and  roll imperatives: a solid beat, snappy lyrics and engaging themes. Ubu tends to break these imperatives apart: if the lyrics are funny, the melody will be excruciatingly abstract; if the melody is catchy, the lyrics will be intentionally dull or indecipherable. But David Thomas' smooth, adenoidal vocals and Tom Herman's staccato guitar playing provide the musical glue to hold everything together.

 The band's name, derived from a character in turn-of-the-century avant-gardist Alfred Jarry's famous plays, has some significance. As in the work of Jarry and other Dadaists, there is, beneath Pere Ubu's shouted cynicism, a painfully hopeful romanticism, a feeling that if you wallow in ugliness with a sufficiently noble and artistic intent, the ugliness will become attractive. It did for Jarry, and it does for Pere Ubu, especially on the title song—a swirling, complex collage—and on the sardonic but hearty "Humor Me."

But the best thing I've read is by someone named Leland on the Rate Your Music website :

The Modern Dance is a black-and-white comic featuring a grotesque, undersketched, permanently underemployed fat manic depressive walking cracked sidewalks in a torn trenchcoat under chronic Cleveland cloud cover, mumbling conspiracy theories gleaned while watching a distorted-tubed tv on the blink during long afternoons lying around in a bathroom-in-the-hall efficiency.

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