Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ubu Roi

You probably already know that I'm a huge fan of Pere Ubu (ahem, the blog title?), but it's been a while since any of Thomas' work has grabbed me the way that Lady from Shanghai did. It's a very good record, IMO...as intriguing to listen to as it is to think about.

Pere Ubu
Lady From Shanghai

“Thanks” opens this 17th Pere Ubu album in a spasmodic, staccato burst of robot disco, a locked-in groove of bass and drums, propulsive yet oddly drained of hedonism. It’s a cover, more or less, of Anita Ward’s strobe-era mega-hit “Ring My Bell,” abstracted and intellectualized, and it makes perfect sense when David Thomas comes in querulous and tetchy as ever, singing “You can go to he-ell-ell,” where the chorus should be. Pere Ubu — born in the twilight of disco and the earliest glimmerings of post-punk, named for Alfred Jarry’s monstrous king, unamenable to outside strictures but girdled by the most extreme sort of internal rigors and disciplines — is back at it, upending everything you thought you knew about rock ‘n’ roll.

Lady From Shanghai reconvenes a very seasoned Ubu line-up — bassist Michele Temple, drummer Steve Mehlman, Keith Moline on guitar, all members of the band for the last two decades. (Gagarin, the U.K. electronics and keyboards eccentric who tours with Ubu, shows up for some eerily menacing piano dissonance on “Another One (Oh Maybelline),” and Darryl Boon blows out some truly disturbing trills and runs on his clarinet in “Thanks,” but mostly it’s the regulars.) They are super-tight and competent, but with an undercurrent of madness and chaos, a well-oiled machine that is infinitely more interesting because it might blow up at any time.


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