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Music Consumption: Pere Ubu
06/23/1998 Pere Ubu: Pennsylvania

Still listening to "Pennsylvania". I was going to list favorite tunes, but when I do that, I end up listing all of them. They're all stuck in my head, on a rotation depending on mood and whatever other factors dictate these things. Let yourself in for the same pleasure by buying it.

It's interesting--when I check out the lyrics on the Ubu Projex web site, they aren't as evocative as the whole of the music and the lyrics together. And when I look at lyrics from their older songs, songs I know well and have had in my head for years, find that I often have the lyrics wrong. I also find that I prefer the mishearings, maybe because they've become familiar and have grown associations I'm not willing to give up. An example might be found in the lyrics for The Modern Dance, specifically "Over My Head." It's an intensely haunting song, and the line "This will pass, and this will, too" is one I'd always heard as a much more desolate "then she says, 'I miss me, too.'" Well, seems desolate to me.

06/20/1998 Pere Ubu: live

Saw Pere Ubu last night, and I'm listening to the new CD, "Pennsylvania", which I bought at the show. It's good, but I need to concentrate on it more--I'm doing too much to delve into the sonic multi-layeredness of Ubu. The show was good even though David Thomas appeared to be suffering from a throat ailment (I'd heard he was sick, and at one point he referred to the room as being too cold for his throat).

What's interesting in listening to the CD after hearing the live versions is that I really notice the difference between the two guitarists in the studio (Jim Jones and Tom Herman) and just Tom Herman live. I love Tom Herman's playing--it's always surprising, sometimes sad, and occasionally shocking, in some wildly divergent choice he's made, that somehow seems exactly right. I find myself wanting more space around Tom's playing on the CD (a continuation of the two-guitarists-or-one debate) although I can see myself liking the denser interplay on the CD. His tone, too, is spooky and spacious, tending toward a clean sound of steel strings through a Fender amp. His slide work is riveting, too, and slightly cold (and I mean that as a compliment), a result of his using the slide on a concert-tuned (or standard tuned) guitar. He's not to be missed, either with Ubu ("Pennsylvania", or the first three records), Tripod Jimmy (early '80s; his slide work and compositions are pretty amazing), or, I'd imagine, with his new project, "I Am Your Conscience", which I haven't yet heard.

Robert Wheeler's EML synth and theremin playing are also vastly pleasing. The theremin is probably the most theatrical of instruments. While body language is important to playing many instruments (guitar playing, for example, often seems more fluid and natural when one "uses" one's whole body to play) there's a sense in which it really doesn't do anything. In playing the theremin, every twitch, shake, and grimace has an effect on the sound.

Michelle Temple and Steve Melman are a fine rhythm section in Ubu, as they've been in the Vivians, although somehow they seem more dynamic here. Maybe it's the available space and fluidity of the music. OTOH, seeing them with R. Scott Krause and Chris Cutler on drums, that was fluid, stretching time. With Temple and Melman, the rhythm section really drives, and has its own melancholy expansion of space and concentration of power.

David Thomas's voice is unlike anyone else's in rock. You might find a distant neighbor in jazz or maybe '50s pop. I'm not sure why I say this; it's just what comes to mind. (Maybe it's a result of his singing the Jimmy Durante "good night" song to those in the audience who persisted in trying to applaud the band into an encore after the house lights were up, CDs & T-shirts were out for sale, and half the drum kit was broken down for removal.) It ranges from a primal whine to a subdued, slightly crackly croon, and watching the man perform is to watch someone juggling and wrestling with the big concepts. (And the last two times they played the Pittsburgh club Graffiti, one could watch him wrestle a bad monitor mix.)

03/26/1998 Pere Ubu: Pennsylvania

Datapanik in the Year Zero by Pere Ubu

Still New Picnic Time and The Art of Walking. The perfect soundtrack for living in the Rust Belt.

I was introduced to Pere Ubu's music when I was an annoying adolescent going to the Pittsburgh Filmmakers independent film nights.

The program director would play extraordinarily hip music before the films, and I remember how riveted I was when I first heard "Laughing" from The Modern Dance.

The new CD, "Pennsylvania", will be released in the US and Canada in a few days.

03/16/1998 Pere Ubu: Pennsylvania

Datapanik in the Year Zero by Pere Ubu

Particularly the New Picnic Time and The Art of Walking stuff. Simultaneously difficult and catchy.

The new Ubu CD, "Pennsylvania", has been released, and seems to be on order at CDNow, but according to the band, there's no planned US release date.