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Rock - Released January 9, 2017 | Fire Records

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Rock - Released January 9, 2017 | Fire Records

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Though Pere Ubu's tenure on Mercury lasted one record, their departure for their unlikely home of Chrysalis (at the time the label of Jethro Tull) resulted in Dub Housing, widely considered their masterpiece. Darker and more difficult than The Modern Dance (indicated by the cover's darkened apartment complex and stormy Cleveland skyline) with plenty of bleak soundscapes (e.g., "Codex"), Dub Housing also includes "Navvy"'s bouncy burble (featuring Thomas yelping "I have desires!"), and "(Pa) Ubu Dance Party"'s surreal big beat. Make no mistake, as much as Ubu indulged in arty dissonance and mucked about with song structure, this is very much a rock & roll record, albeit one made by a band interested in pushing the envelope when it came to sound, song construction, and performance. As much as this is a band effort, the guitar of Tom Herman and the synthesizer of Allen Ravenstine frequently stand out. Herman's strong, polished playing veers from assertive riffing to assaultive noise; Ravenstine, who may be one of the all-time great synth players, colors the sound with ominous whooshes of distortions, blips, and blurbs that sound like a sped-up Pong game. But, as is often the case with Ubu, it's David Thomas' singing (here at its most engagingly unrestrained) that is front and center. Part comic foil, part raging madman, Thomas utilizes all of his limited range in a whacked expressiveness built around hiccups, yodels, screeches, and, sometimes, singing. Dub Housing sold next to nothing and signaled the beginning of the end of Ubu's relationship with Chrysalis, but it remains an important and influential American rock record. © John Dougan /TiVo
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Punk / New Wave - Released July 12, 2019 | Cherry Red Records

Ever since "30 Seconds Over Tokyo," Pere Ubu have been portending the end, either with their apocalyptic sounds or the numerous times they've threatened to call it quits. This time, they may actually mean it. The band's mastermind David Thomas described The Long Goodbye as their "definitive destination," and if it is their final statement, they're not making any concessions. Unlike 20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo, where they framed the complexity of their music in relatively short, simple outbursts, this time they lead with the avant side of their avant-garage, letting it sprawl and tangle in fascinating and unsettling ways. For the band's final chapter, Thomas was inspired by an unlikely pair of influences: commercial pop music and Raymond Chandler's classic 1953 noir novel The Long Goodbye (which, not coincidentally, was the author's final book and the culmination of the Philip Marlowe series). Thomas' noir inspirations cast the sharpest shadows on the excellent "Flicking Cigarettes at the Sun," a hard-boiled farewell to Los Angeles (whose name he pronounces with an early 20th century hard g) that's filled with sunlit menace and dread, and on "Fortunate Son," where he explains that the favorite voice inside his head "speaks from under the lamplight of a roadside diner in the urban sprawl of Los Angeles/Sometime in the '40s, something like a Jim Thompson novel" over taut synths and unspooling guitars. Pere Ubu's interpretation of pop music is far less literal. In fact, this is some of their most disorienting music, thanks to the focus on Robert Wheeler's and Gagarin's synths, which chitter, chime, and squeal as Thomas questions reality on "What I Heard on the Pop Radio." The Long Goodbye offers plenty of reminders that he's a vocalist like few others, and one who knows how to use his instrument perfectly. He spits out his words with the impatience of a man who knows the end is near, whispering "progress is a funny thing" savagely on "The World (As We Can Know It)." He also remains an unparalleled writer as he chronicles the places and people that change and disappear on the album's journey. This is especially true on "The Road Ahead," a nine-minute excursion that reaches mythic proportions as it crosses the country and travels from spellbinding to poignant. This heartfelt undercurrent is just as vital to The Long Goodbye as its abrasive experiments, and the band leave their audience with the relatively comforting seaside vignette "Lovely Day." From beginning to end, The Long Goodbye is pure Pere Ubu: surprising, unexpectedly tender, and above all, thought-provoking. Even by their standards, this is a wild and challenging album -- coming full circle rarely sounds this exhilarating. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Rock - Released June 26, 2020 | Cherry Red Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 7, 2015 | Fire Records

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There isn't a Pere Ubu recording you can imagine living without. The Modern Dance remains the essential Ubu purchase (as does the follow-up, Dub Housing). For sure, Mercury had no idea what they had on their hands when they released this as part of their punk rock offshoot label Blank, but it remains a classic slice of art-punk. It announces itself quite boldly: the first sound you hear is a painfully high-pitched whine of feedback, but then Tom Herman's postmodern Chuck Berry riffing kicks off the brilliant "Non-Alignment Pact," and you soon realize that this is punk rock unlike any you've ever heard. David Thomas' caterwauling is funny and moving, Scott Krauss (drums) and Tony Maimone (bass) are one of the great unheralded rhythm sections in all of rock, and the "difficult" tracks like "Street Waves," "Chinese Radiation," and the terrifying "Humor Me" are revelatory, and way ahead of their time. The Modern Dance is the signature sound of the avant-garage: art rock, punk rock, and garage rock mixing together joyously and fearlessly. © John Dougan /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 12, 2016 | Fire Records

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Rock - Released June 26, 2017 | Fire Records

No band has sustained as much alt-credibility as long as Pere Ubu. While St. Arkansas doesn't divert from the paths the bandmembers have already traveled, it's worth remembering that these guys started this trip 27 years prior to this album, and noting as well that their lyrical and musical creativity is undiminished by time. Recorded dry, with a boxlike ambience, David Thomas's vocals gnarl like a weed, repulsive yet irresistible, in a garden of broken glass. While the band scatters shards of pointed sound around him, Thomas tells cryptic, twisted tales; on "Slow Walking Daddy" his strangled bleat transplants a Willy Loman character into shadows of vague but looming doom. For the song "Hell" he switches to a smoky mumble and reflects, with odd detachment, on finding himself in perdition -- a place depicted musically by a muffled, lurching drum motif, some keyboard wheezes, and a distant out of tune piano. The closing track, "Dark," wraps up the theme of the album -- tragic self-delusion in a world filled with indifference; Thomas' delivery of the key line, a hopeless mantra to "AM radio," is a masterful bit of expression. On each track he presents himself as more of an actor or a performance artist than a singer, an assumption of identity that would challenge almost any band's approach to accompaniment. In this sense, as well as in his poetic integrity and superb connection to his musicians, and in the dark majesty of his declamation, Thomas casts a dangerous spell with St. Arkansas and reaffirms his stature as a peer of Tom Waits. © Robert L. Doerschuk /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 29, 2017 | Cherry Red Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 12, 2016 | Fire Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 7, 2013 | Fire Records

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Experimental - Released April 21, 2018 | Call Of The Void

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 12, 2016 | Fire Records

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Rock - Released June 26, 2017 | Fire Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 12, 2016 | Fire Records

It was not surprising that after Dub Housing, Pere Ubu couldn't get a record released in the U.S. New Picnic Time originally surfaced on Chrysalis as a British import, but when Rough Trade made it available domestically, U.S. fans could take solace in that the band had finally hooked up with a label more sympathetic to their decidedly unique approach to music. New Picnic Time was also the last Ubu record with guitarist Tom Herman, and for many Ubu fans this signals the end of Pere Ubu phase one (or phase two, depending on one's feelings for the Datapanik-era band). New Picnic Time also finds David Thomas' lyrical explorations reflecting his religious involvement with the Jehovah's Witnesses, pieties that are stated quite emphatically on the record's closing track, "Jehovah's Kingdom Comes." © John Dougan /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 8, 2014 | Fire Records

Continuing their trilogy of albums inspired by classic films, Pere Ubu move from the noir ambiance of The Lady from Shanghai to songs based on Carnival of Souls, director Herk Harvey's influential, low-budget horror movie from 1962. Lady from Shanghai revitalized the band's creativity, especially on songs like the equally catchy and unsettling "Mandy," which delivered dance-pop Pere Ubu style. Carnival of Souls goes even further, digging into the band's darkest, most challenging realms as well as surprisingly serene ones. Many of these songs came from Pere Ubu's score for the movie, which they developed and performed during The Lady from Shanghai tour; the stress of working so much acted as a crucible for this volatile album. As Midwestern experimentalists with a decidedly spooky bent, Pere Ubu are uniquely equipped to use Carnival of Souls' small-town surrealism for their own devices. "Dr. Faustus," one of the album's most score-like pieces, combines metallic percussion, spare guitars and David Thomas' muttered vocals into something rustic and rickety, yet threatening at a moment's notice (an effect the band magnifies on the epic 12-minute closer "Brother Ray," which the band describes as a prequel to Nathanael West's The Day of the Locust). "Carnival," which slows a lilting organ melody to a zombie's pace, could be a more literal exercise in horror music, but with Thomas threatening that "96 tears will burn your cheeks" and "monkey knows best," it's disorienting in the best possible way. Throughout the album, the band leaves their own mark on the film's iconic imagery. "Road to Utah" unfurls like a lonesome highway, its organ melody nodding to the film's original score by Gene Moore; more elliptically, "Visions of the Moon" reflects the isolation protagonist Mary Henry feels as the plot thickens. "Drag the River" captures the film's circular feel and visions of death so perfectly (hearing Thomas bellow "Moon-faced! Doom-struck!" is one of the album's most satisfying and terrifying moments) that it's virtually a musical spoiler. However, Carnival of Souls' most immediate moment, its "Mandy," is "Bus Station," which weaves Screaming Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You" into the film's oppressively monotonous world via herky-jerky rhythms and Thomas' sing-song delivery. Pere Ubu also manages the not-insignificant feat of tying this album to Lady from Shanghai thanks to newest member Darryl Boon's clarinet, which gives an alien yet vintage feel to songs as far-flung as the thundering surf-meets-metal workout "Golden Surf II" and the lovely "Irene," which reprises the allusions to "I Put a Spell on You" in oddly comforting fashion. Even more ambitious, rewarding and exciting than its predecessor, Carnival of Souls is a thrilling album that raises expectations for the trilogy's final installment to the skies. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Rock - Released June 26, 2017 | Fire Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 19, 2016 | Fire Records

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Rock - Released April 18, 2015 | Fire Records

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Rock - Released March 18, 2016 | Fire Digital

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 28, 2006 | Hearpen Records

The second volume in the live Ubu saga, this is sonically better than its predecessor, 390 Degrees of Simulated Stereo. Covering the period from 1978-1981, the tracks on this recording were recorded during the guitarist transition from Tom Herman to Mayo Thompson. And while I prefer Herman's more assertive guitar playing, Thompson acquits himself nicely here, especially on "Birdies" and "(Pa) Ubu Dance Party." Vocalist David Thomas has some extraordinary moments here, as he is less restrained (positively manic) than in the studio. His glee is contagious, and by infusing the songs with such unrestrained joy, the band never sounds too dour and serious. Proof that art-rock can rock. © John Dougan /TiVo