Sunday, July 5, 2009

Pere Ubu - Dub Housing

Pere Ubu - Dub Housing

The first thing you need to know about Pere Ubu frontman David Thomas is that he has these arms and legs that flip flop, flip flop. The second thing you need to know is that he has one of the most annoying voices in rock, and that's an asset. I originally wasn't going to include a Pere Ubu album in my week covering artists from Northeast Ohio, opting for something more obscure like the Mirrors or the Styrenes, but then I realized the vast majority of the board has probably never even heard of Pere Ubu and they're a far superior band than those other two. While all of their 70s material is essential, Dub Housing is their masterpiece, and one of my top ten favorite albums of all time. While the predominant adjective to describe Pere Ubu is usually weird, which they undoubtedly are, they're much more than that. This isn't the sound of a band going out of its way to be weird for the sake of being weird, but rather of a group of people who just are genuinely weird making rock and roll the way they hear it in their heads. Despite all the strangeness and darkness creeping around at the edges, most of these songs are upbeat pop numbers at heart, although ones from an alternate universe where Captain Beefheart, Lee Perry, and Sun Ra are superstars. "Caligari's Mirror" perfectly encapsulates their dual nature, alternating between a ghost ship sea shanty and something that approximates the feel of a show tune. Every song is filled with a variety of unusual, inventive textures and sounds popping up randomly at all the right moments. On a few songs, like the faux-horror-soundtrack "Thriller!", the sound effects overtake the songs, creating atmospheres even more delightfully sinister than PiL's death dub. Much of the lineage of what would become alternative rock can be traced back to what Pere Ubu did in the mid to late 70s, but they also managed to accomplish the rare trick of still sounding like the future of music thirty years after the fact on Dub Housing.


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