Music

Pere Ubu: New Picnic Time / The Art of Walking / The Song of the Bailing Man

Pere Ubu is known mostly for their first two records, The Modern Dance and Dub Housing. This subsequent trio of releases showcases a noted change in the direction of the band.


Pere Ubu

New Picnic Time

Label: Fire
Release Date: 2016-12-09
Amazon
iTunes

Pere Ubu

The Art of Walking

Label: Fire
Release Date: 2016-12-09
Amazon
iTunes

Pere Ubu

The Song of the Bailing Man

Label: Fire
Release Date: 2016-12-09
Amazon
iTunes

Pere Ubu is an obscure band with a capital ‘O'; a cool band with a capital 'C'; and a band you discover after years of digging around and digesting all the classics of the rock genre. Simply put, they are art-punk and not well-known, yet these two signifiers combine to create the ultimate name-drop -- “But have you heard Pere Ubu’s The Modern Dance?” Their music lives in the same rarified air of other little-known cult groups like the Residents, X-Ray Spex, and Television Personalities. Their story is simple, too: they hailed from the depths of Cleveland in the '70s. A local group called Rocket From the Tombs split up and became two different groups: the Dead Boys and Pere Ubu. The former is hands down punk, while the latter named itself after an absurd play and made artsy punk/noise. In an attempt to reach new audiences, Fire Records recently reissued the band's third, fourth, and fifth records (New Picnic Time, The Art of Walking, and The Song of the Bailing Man, respectively).

Their first record, 1978's The Modern Dance, was an untamable fire. It combined punk and avant-garde in a time when punk was still considered avant-garde on its own. From the opening track, “Non-Alignment Pact”, onward, though, the gist is clear: uncompromising punk with a noise problem led by an uncompromising vocalist just as likely to squeal as he is to sing. Their second record, Dub Housing, is arguably better, but is mostly a victory lap that revisits the same territory as the first record. It’s a one-two punch that's worth the time of the connoisseur.

In contrast, the next three records, New Picnic Time, The Art of Walking, and Song of the Bailing Man, show a noted change in the direction of the band. Although Dave Thomas opens the first of the bunch by saying, “It’s me again! Hey! Hey! It’s me again!”, it doesn’t take long to notice that the direction of the band has been changed or lost in the haze. For a majority of the rest of record, the driving rhythm of the music seems gone and replaced by an incessant need to sound "weird" or "strange", and, unfortunately, out of tune. For example, “A Small Dark Cloud” offers nothing outside of a synth mimicking bird chirps for nearly two minutes. Once they have finished with that gimmick, all they offer is a single repeated bass synth note as David Thomas pants, wails, and screams, “Don’t rock the boat” like his life depends on it. Unfortunately, they bring back the bird chirps for good measure occasionally, which wouldn't be so bad if the song weren't nearly six minutes in length. This avant-nonsense continues for the rest of the record, with the only small reprieve being offered by the closing track, “Kingdom Come”, which has a bit of a tune.

The Art of Walking, the band's fourth LP, shows little change from the direction of New Picnic Time . In fact, it seems like their "experiments" were allowed to brew even longer. Whereas New Picnic Time sounded as if the group jammed for a few hours before having David Thomas mumble drunkenly over the recordings, The Art of Walking seems a little more designed, a little more planned. The second track, “Rhapsody in Pink", offers little outside of Dave Thomas’ abstract warblings and out-of-tune-with-each-other instrument noodlings, but it flexes much more composure than most of the former record could muster. Even though The Art of Walking suffers from the same over-noodling as New Picnic Time, it at least sounds like the band was in the same room together most of the time, and that’s an improvement.

The Song of the Bailing Man is easily the most enjoyable of the three, and the reason is simple: it's fun. Whereas the last two records were awash with straight-faced weirdness, The Song of the Bailing Man seems to be winking at the audience, acknowledging that music this weird deserves some smiles. The opening track, “The Long Walk Home”, begins as a bizarre jaunt but offers some levity by adding a bridge that sounds like jazz performed by over-exuberant ten-year-olds trying to impress their family. It's fun. Later, “Use of a Dog” offers melodic sax lines that hilariously blend in with Dave Thomas’ squeaking and squawking vocals, and “West Side Story” closes with positively jubilant guitar explosion. Elsewhere on the record, the antics continue to impress.

These three records heralded an end of an era for Pere Ubu. After Song of The Bailing Man, Pere Ubu went on hiatus for five years, and the next four records (starting with 1988's The Tenement Year) saw an even bigger change for the band: transformation into an experimental pop group. As strange of a journey as New Picnic Time, The Art of Walking, and The Song of the Bailing Man offered, Pere Ubu was going even weirder places. It’s anachronistic to say, but stay tuned. You shall be entertained.

5

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

With The Perfect Nothing Catalog, composer Conrad Winslow explores attention and arrangement with assistance from the Cadillac Moon Ensemble and Aaron Roche.

The album cover, in a way, tells you everything. It's simple: a cardboard box with two pieces of tape: one from the box's original packing, the other haphazardly slapped on. They imply two separate states–ordering and reordering, original state and redefined context. The Perfect Nothing Catalog, the debut recording from Alaska-born, Brooklyn-based composer Conrad Winslow, invokes this very idea of objects and ideas placed, shuffled, and replaced, provoking questions of how arrangement shapes meaning.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Film

In 'Downsizing' Shrinking Means Big Money and Bigger Problems

Matt Damon and Jason Sudeikis in Downsizing (2017) (Photo by Photo credit: Paramount Pictures - © 2017 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.) (IMDB)

Being the size of a dog's chew toy might not be to everybody's taste, but it's certainly a shortcut to a kind of upper middle-class luxury unobtainable for most of humanity.

Just imagine you're a character in Alexander Payne's circuitous and occasionally perceptive new comedy Downsizing: You were pre-med, but you dropped out of school to take care of your mother. Now you're an occupational therapist at Omaha Steaks. You and your wife are treading water both economically and in your relationship. But still, you face every day with just enough gee-whiz optimism that life never quite turns into a grind. But then, something happens. Some Swedish researchers figured out a way to shrink the average human down to a mere five inches tall without any adverse side effects. There are risks to avoid, like not leaving metal fillings in during the shrinking process (exploding heads, you know).

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image