Pere Ubu, one of Cleveland’s most critically revered, influential, challenging and enduring groups, will perform a rare small-venue show at the Beachland Ballroom Tavern in Cleveland, OH on November 6.
Ubu, founded by David Thomas (then known as “Crocus Behemoth”) and the late Peter Laughner in 1975 upon the demise of Rocket From the Tombs, is also slated to record a new album, its 18th — with the working title Electricity — at their beloved Suma studios in Painesville, Ohio in the coming weeks. The record is tentatively scheduled for a September, 2006 release.
The November 6th performance will mark the North American debut of new guitarist, Keith Moline, no stranger to Thomas fans after performing in the David Thomas and two pale boys unit. Says Thomas, “I’m very excited about the new band – Keith Moline, like most limey prog-rockers, once you stick him in front of a Marshall stack becomes a real head-banger. Can’t keep him off those eighth-notes.”
Joining Thomas on vocals and Moline on guitar will be Robert Wheeler on EML synths, theremin, Ensoniq ASR10; Michele Temple on bass; and Steve Mehlman on drums.
Springing artily forth 30 years ago, Ubu was difficult, brainy, peculiar, even threatening. Ira Robbins said of the band and their Northeast Ohio cohorts, “Pere Ubu was to Devo what Arnold Schoenberg was to Irving Berlin.”
In 1978 the band released The Modern Dance and the classic Dub Housing. Thomas’s vocals defy description, but involved chirping, assorted melismatic gymnastics, alien love calls, and, you know, singing. While this may sound distant, cold and technical, Thomas’s warmth of personality shone — and still does shine — through it all.
After releasing three more albums by 1981, the band gained a greater degree of public notoriety after performing the onomatopoeic “Birdies” in the New Wave concert film Urgh! A Music War with the likes of the Police, the Go-Go’s, Echo and the Bunnymen, Gary Numan, Dead Kennedys, Wall of Voodoo, OMD, Oingo Boingo, and Devo, and a couple-dozen others. Criminally, there is no DVD of the film, and the soundtrack is out of print.
After taking an extended break, the band reformed in ’87 consisting of Thomas, Scott Krauss, Tony Maimone, Allen Ravenstine, and Jim Jones. After two more albums, they released the very fine Cloudland in ’89. By then the band had transmogrified into a skewed pop-rock outfit, highlighting the melodies — as on the brilliant “Waiting For Mary” — that were always there somewhere under the noise.
“Mary” is an effervescent, driving guitar song that got some radio airplay but deserved much more. The call and response vocal interplay between Thomas and the rest of the group emphasizes the strange melodicism of the big man’s voice, and the lyrics involve global and interplanetary travel in search of the elusive Mary.
Preceding Ubu at the Beachland Ballroom by just a week is the Dead Boys 30th anniversary Halloween show. That number “30” is no coincidence: Dead Boys and Pere Ubu both were assembled from the remnants of the legendary Rocket From the Tombs.