9/10 Mike Staff review, 05 September 2014
Last year's Pere Ubu album 'Lady From Shanghai' was a bit hit around the office, with the decades-spanning avant-popsters hitting a rich seam of form, and now they're back with another, 'Carnival of Souls', which sees them in a similarly spirited mood, romping through nine new tracks of mind-bending pop with David Thomas's distinctive nasal sneer leading the charge.
They open with the devastating neon rock madness of 'Golden Surf II', a barrelling squall of scratchy feedback guitar and gnarled rumbling bass and Hawkwind-ish electronics and krautrock drums that swings around in dramatic dynamic shifts as Thomas spit-squawks in a staccato holler. It's a bit Trans Am, a bit Les Savy Fav, but still unmistakeably Pere Ubu - such a killer track that it threatens to eclipse the rest of the LP with its wild-eyed perfection.
The pace does indeed slow later on and there aren't any more tracks that really compete with the opener in terms of fireworks, but there's still plenty of gems to be had. 'Bus Station' is a stalking, strutting slow-burner that cribs lines from Screamin' Jay Hawkins's 'I Put A Spell On You' and places them in a far more sinister context (a familiar motif from Ubu...last time round it was 'Ring My Bell'), with some great wibbly violin and guitar touches. Similarly snail's-pace Tom Waits-ish ballad 'Irene' returns to that same Hawkins vocal riff but this time with sad country guitar twinkles and dentist's drill drones.
Also of note is 12-minute closer 'Brother Ray' which opens with weird experimental ambient dronescapes and Morricone-esque guitar touches, eventually settling into a soft drum groove and a lengthy dramatic monologue from Thomas. It's got a louche, meandering, semi-freeform weightlessness to it that's totally engrossing despite its length. Brilliant stuff again from Pere Ubu - as Andy has already noted in his customer review, there's a bit more emphasis on rock and less on electronics than last time round, but they've still got more good ideas than bands half their age.
7/10 Andy Customer review, 18th August 2014
Pere Ubu have always been ahead of the game, helping invent post-punk with their early Hearpen singles, before punk existed. By the time punk morphed into post-punk, everyone from Public Image LTD to Teardrop Explodes seemed to exist on the bands wavelength. But instead of carrying on from Pere Ubu’s legacy, they merely found themselves claiming territory Pere Ubu had long since abandoned as their own. By then Pere Ubu were making albums that were far removed from even the most edgy post-punk.
Music journalist Lester Bangs said that there were only 10,000 pairs of ears that could withstand Captain Beefheart, and as it seems a similar number could apply to Pere Ubu. Sure their music has more often than not, provoked extreme reactions from anyone I played it to. One person told me the ringing synths on ‘Non-Alignment Pact’ sounded like a fire alarm going off. An another time I was asked why would I want to listen to such tuneless nonsense. Pere Ubu have been considered as seminal in post-punk and hardcore circles, with many a underground band citing them as an influence. But as with Captain Beefheart, even if there might be feint traces of their DNA in other bands, the essence of what makes the band unique cannot be replicated, as this is music that exists within its own vacuum.
Pere Ubu’s 18th studio album ‘Carnival of Souls’, follows on from where preceding album ‘Lady From Shangai’ left off, while making some subtle changes along the way. Firstly as people familiar with their music would expect, many of Pere Ubu’s trademarks remain; the discordant electronic textures, Dave Thomas’ rambling vocals, and pop culture lifts are still intact. But this time the main difference is the dense electronics textures of ‘Lady From Shangai’ are occasionally pushed back in spots, allowing for a slightly rockier sound.
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- Carnival Of Souls by Pere Ubu
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