All Content © 1997, 1998, 1999 Jared O'Connor and Michael Baker

Pere Ubu - Terminal Tower: An archival collection: Non LP singles and B-sides, 1975-1980 - 1985, Twin/Tone

May 20, 1999

Punk is usually associated with adolescent blue-collar rage. This stereotype might be true for the British version, as evidenced by the band names - the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Buzzcocks - but other than the Ramones, the American version was always more cerebral. Bands like Talking Heads, Television, and Modern Lovers used punk as a way to smash down preconceptions, not police barricades.

Named after a French absurdist play, Pere Ubu was the strangest and perhaps smartest of the lot, and certainly the furthest ahead of its time - categorizing it merely as punk is misleading. Though bands as wide-ranging as the Pixies, PiL and European industrial have absorbed their influence, their sound is just as fresh and experimental now as it was 25 years ago. The mainstream isn't ready for Pere Ubu and probably never will be, although the world would be a far more interesting place if it pushed a song like "Untitled" or "Heaven" to the top of the charts.

Terminal Tower is a collection of Pere Ubu's groundbreaking early singles, a perfect introduction to their fascinating sound. David Thomas' odd voice is the first thing you'll notice. High pitched and haunting, he yelps paranoia, stutters and sobs skewed melodies over the band's foundation of lo-fi guitars, jarring sound effects, and bold sonic experiments. It's dissonant urban blues played by men who took too many existential philosophy classes in college.

It works because Pere Ubu was comprised of crack musicians - you can't make these sounds by mistake. The terrifying bass groove of "Heart of Darkness" and blasted post-apocalyptic landscape of "30 Seconds over Tokyo" are balanced by the synth-shuffle of "Cloud 149" and the hilarious dada-pop of "Not Happy". Music this bold, intelligent and risky forces a reaction - you'll either despise it or fall deeply, hopelessly in love.

- Jared O'Connor

Smart and strange

All Content © 1997, 1998, 1999 Jared O'Connor and Michael Baker