1978, Music

The Modern Dance (1978) by Pere Ubu

Imagine New Wave at its absolute quirkiest (i.e. Devo) and then add a dose of avant rock from the late 1960s and you get some vague idea of what Pere Ubu sounds like on their debut. All the herky jerky New Wave stuff is here but so are piercing noises, samples of who knows what, and free jazz-esque musette. Every time you think these guys are going to find a New Wave groove and stick to it, they destroy it.

When the band is playing straight-up New Wave, they are still pretty damn original. David Thomas sounds like no one else and the band are more willing than perhaps any other new wave band to break with musical conventions. (They are more out there than Devo, which is saying something. Though it’s harder to tell with Pere Ubu if they’re enjoying themselves.)

But what sets the record apart and makes it utterly unique for its time – and, probably, ever – is how avant garde it is, and how those avant garde elements are included in songs that are relatively conventional (for new wave, anyway). I have only ever heard Dub Housing before (and not recently) and I do not remember it being this extreme.

Of particular note is their keyboard player who appears to not want to play synthesizers like other rock musicians, which is cool.

The one thing keeping me from giving this full marks is that the racket they make is a racket that has been made many times before (excepting Thomas’ vocals and the keyboards). They’re not the first band to try to sound as horrible as they can at times, just to bother your parents. There’s perhaps just a titch too much noise for the sake of noise compared to when they actually sound like a new wave band.

But who knows. Maybe with a few more listens I’ll decide they’ve found the perfect balance.


PS RYM says this is a post punk record. It is not.

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