Release Date: Sep 29, 2017
Record label: Cherry Red
The album is definitively Pere Ubu; David Thomas’ vocals are stained and scratched thanks to more than 40 years at the cutting edge of bedlam, analogue and digital synths buzz and whine with otherworldly clarity. Anarchic song-writing that has achieved little refinement over four decades but likewise has lost none of the humour that has stalked Pere Ubu doggedly across time. Yet the album is also weirdly different to anything that the group, in its loosest term, has previously released.
Wanting to call their new album "Bruce Springsteen is an Asshole," only to later change their mind to call it "Robert DeNiro is an Asshole," Pere Ubu ultimately settled on 20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo. Despite any rational explanation, the band that invented futuristic gutter blues crawls deep into its own legacy to pull from it a muddling collection of searing sounds that transfer their rich past into the dilapidated present. David Thomas, Pere Ubu's only original member, defies contemporary pristine production values convoluting most releases today by denuding each track, stripping it down to its bare essence.
The fact that Pere Ubu has been flying under the radar for the majority, if not the entirety, of the band’s career is at the same time surprising and somewhat expected. Retaining an excellent balance between the sound that defined the late ‘70s to mid-‘80s, in new wave and post-punk, and at the same time layering that foundation with avant-garde augmentations, Pere Ubu is not a very easy band to follow. Aspects of musique concrete and krautrock notions living beside blues and garage rock is a strange mix, no matter how successful Pere Ubu was in nailing the bizarre cocktail.
Album number 16 after a few hiatuses, and the first of The Dark Room, following on from the Orange Period. More of the dissimilar, one might say .
It’s interesting that Pere Ubu, among the most forward-looking bands of the mid-70s, sound much the same in 2017 as they did 40 years ago. Despite their pre/proto-punk origins, their instantly-recognisable sound is full of traits usually considered post-punk; jerky/sinuous/angular rock with thin/spectral synths and David Thomas’ yelping vocal providing a focal point. It’s a sound that, partly through their influence, was there as an alternative even at the height of punk, through bands as unalike as Devo, Wire and Magazine.
There is, perhaps, some irony that Pere Ubu's 40-year career arc begins and ends under the shadow of nuclear annihilation. This the band, after all, that burst into antic funk-punk life with end-of-the-Cold-War singles like "30 Seconds Over Tokyo" and "Final Solution." Now, half a lifetime later, as Kim Jung Un (and, let's face it, our own president) threaten life as we know it, David Thomas and crew have sprung back into the vertiginous anarchy of their earliest days, with the fastest, hardest, rocking-est set of tunes from Pere Ubu in decades. For this album, Thomas has added substantially to his band, now nine-strong and armed to the teeth with three different guitar players.