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Pere Ubu

Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh
Four stars
“Anyone expecting the hits,” drawls David Thomas, de facto leader of the Cleveland, Ohio sired 'avant-garage' band for almost forty years, “come talk to me. They're in my head, but I won't answer.” A mere six months after touring their fifteenth original studio album, Lady From Shanghai, Thomas and co have ripped up the rule-book (and there is a one hundred page 'manual' to accompany the album) and opted to showcase material from two work-in-progress song cycles, Visions of the Moon and Dr Faustroll in the Big Easy. Like the man says, “If something works, why do it again?”

It's a belligerently conceptual approach, but this is how Thomas, sat in a bucket chair and fuelled by Diet Pepsi and Red Bull as he reads lyrics from a music stand, rolls. In baggy-pants and braces, Thomas looks somewhere between a porch-dwelling blues hollerer and Tennessee Williams' Big Daddy in Cat on A Hot Tin Roof. Guitarist Keith Moline, drummer Steve Mehlman, electronics wizard Gagaran, aka Graham 'Dids' Dowdall and latest addition to the Ubu stew, clarinetist Daryll Boon filling in the gaps which absent bassist Michele Temple and vintage synth player Robert Wheeler normally occupy, happily go along with Thomas' benign dictatorship, even as it's overseen with a wry grin.

The new songs themselves are eerie, slow-burning constructions, high on B-movie atmospherics and punctuated by occasional wig-outs. When he's not veering off into rambling anecdotes, Thomas is as much passive conductor as singer, his dark mutterings giving way to anguished high-pitched howls. This is a spacier Pere Ubu, more resembling an atonal chamber ensemble than a rock band, wilfully obtuse and demanding maximum concentration.

The Herald, November 11th 2013



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