vrijdag 10 maart 2017

Drive, He Said 1994 - 2002. Pere Ubu

Drive, He Said is my initiation into things Pere Ubu, with the exception of one song, 'The Modern Dance', I think, in a time when I was still sitting with a cassette recorder and a radio. Taping a radio show on the best albums of the 20th century. So not even that long ago, but without the possibility to burn cds in the house for a few years to come.

Drive, He Said is a box set of four cds. Three released by Pere Ubu is the eight years mentioned in the title and one with the extras. It's a lot, in fact too much, to digest in a fairly short period. Especially given the diet of new music I am on. It is not the kind of music to put on a lot nor to play a lot of songs in one go. Yet, I have been sort of grabbed by David Thomas and his band. In the same sort of way I was grabbed by Zappa's 'Freak Out'. Some songs are great and others near monstrosities of some kind or other.

Where things really go wrong is with that extremely high whining sound going on. At the edge of what I can still here. (Yes, there's some damage done by years of listening to and playing music.) Several songs have that whine and it is near unbearable, like fingernails on the blackboard or the dentist's drill, despite of some great alternative rock things going on in the rest of the song. Near total madness is matched by a small but beautiful harmony ('Electricity').

'Ray Gun Suitcase, released in 1995, is the first album and the one I listened to most. The only album I am going to focus on. Simply as it kicks off this box set.

At the time I remember that no matter what review of this band I read, I was not interested one bit to listen to an album. It sort of repulsed me and I may inadvertently have heard David Thomas sing somewhere and that certainly turned me off a lot at the time.

Come 2017 and I notice that my ears are certainly screwed on differently. Now my tastes in music have changed since the early and mid-90s and my mind is so much more open to new experiences. Hey, I even review the 'Kairos' radio show on Concertzender each month. If I can do that I can do anything. So Pere Ubu, a piece of cake.

In fact, I like what I'm hearing on 'Ray Gun Suitcase'. Not all songs are as special, some are simply to good to resist emerging into. From the moment my ears accepted what singing is with Pere Ubu, I had the opportunity to listen to all else going on. After I accepted the layer of madness or elements derailing a song at our introduction that most songs contain or started to ignore them, as far as possible that is, a relationship between most songs and myself started to develop

Promo photo
All this started with the bass that opens the album. It drives the way forward. Like it does in many great rock songs. From The Stray Cats to, yes, The Strokes. I would not be surprised if this bass run was nearly lifted by that band and transposed into some its finest songs a decade later on, e.g. 'Juicebox'. There are so many great rock things going on in 'Folly Of Youth' and some madness, yes, but who cares if the song is a great rock song. It also includes the title of the album by the way. This rock element goes on in 'Electricity'. By then Pere Ubu had me. "The Stones are true". David Thomas sings. He's still right in 2017. 'Electricity' has some great vocal changes, so delicate, that a "real" singer would have turned the melody into an experience. So does Thomas, but in a total different way. He simply pulls it off and touches me none the same.

In the third song 'Beach Boys' there is this layer of guitars and sounds that give the song a neurotic feel and then add the quivering voice of David Thomas to that mix. The grand total of it all is a well-structured, textured and layered rock song.

Listening further down the album that is my conclusion each and every time. No matter how many estranging elements are built into a song, the outcome is a rock song. A rock song that may go off into whatever direction, it always comes back to a solid basis. That makes it attractive to follow the strains of madness and seeming chaos as I know I will come back to where it all starts: rock and roll.

'Ray Gun Suitcase' for me is the ideal step into things Pere Ubu. I'm not familiar with anything else yet, but will certainly endeavour to find out more in the near future. Ray Gun Suitcase is a great album. It even has a pop feel, in the form of 'Memphis'.


You can listen to 'Memphis' here:


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