Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
The folks that coined the term “avant-garage” have returned with a new album and it is a a beauty. A crisp, clean sound with plenty of quirks just like we are accustomed to from Pere Ubu. The production and mix are fantastic. The music is superb. They still got it. This isn’t for everyone, but the people it is for will really enjoy it.
The hard part about working in the weird is that it is difficult to make something that is quirky and bizarre, yet is still listenable. They have done it again. There are some parts on here that will take few listens to get used to, but there are also some places, many places, on the album where there is some serious grooving going on. Pere Ubu will start jamming a little with one riff and build on that riff. They do it better than just about anyone. I put them in the Zappa/Beefheart/Colonel Bruce Hampton wing of my library. And maybe a touch of PIL thrown in as well.
Let’s go back to talking about riffing. Funk 49 (Track 2) takes the proverbial cake. This song starts off with a funky/bluesy riff that is earth shattering. Simply magical. That riff is the spine of the song and everything else going on in the song is framed around that incredible riff. All of the semi spoken word vocals and screaming instruments are well placed and in second position behind that guitar riff.
Another song that seems to build momentum around a single solitary guitar riff is Howl (Track 8). This is a bluesy number that would fit right at home in a 1950s film noir, black and white of course. The scene would take place in darkness between a man and woman. Ultimately, boy gets girl. I love happy endings!
There is also a very powerful ballad on this album, The Healer (Track 5). Dave Thomas, the vocalist and only original member, really shows off his softer side. This is a very powerful and moving song. Don’t worry, there are still a few sharp turns. This song isn’t plain vanilla, by any means.
If you have an ear for the unusual, this is a very pleasant listen. After all the years, Dave Thomas and company can still put out some timely, meaningful, and groovy music. Those that are familiar with Pere Ubu, buy this one with no reservations. Newbies might want to dip their toes in slowly. If you don’t get it at first, try another listen and it will click.