Hailing from Cleveland, of all places, this experimental combo named itself after a character in a play by French author Alfred Jarry, and if you have the time to figure out what some guy named Father Ubu could possibly have to do with avant-garde alt-rock, by all means, and let me know. Pere Ubu is one of those cult bands with influence, but no sales, and are often spoken of in terms that remind one of the Velvet Underground, to whom they are often compared. People really take their stuff seriously – get this:
Andy Gill, in the New Musical Express, wrote:
Yet by 1978 they had achieved what no other group would even attempt, before or since, they had become the world’s only expressionist Rock
n Roll band, harnessing a range of rock and musique concrete elements together in a sound which drew its power from, and worked on, levels of consciousness previously untouched by popular music. The music Ubu made in 1978 was heart and soul, body and mind, in one.
Greil Marcus, in the 2000 edition of his book Mystery Train, wrote:
Pere Ubu boards a train that passes through a modern nation as if it were an ancient land, all ruin and portent, prophecy and decay. Thus the terrain makes the familiar terrain strange, unseen – new.
Robert Palmer, in the New York Times, wrote:
Pere Ubu was either ahead of its time or out of step altogether; the band’s earliest music sounds as if it could have been recorded yesterday, and is likely to keep sounding that way for some time.
Joe Cushley, in Mojo, wrote:
Ubu are generally regarded as the missing link between the Velvets and punk. From the beginning they obviously understood the nuts and bolts of popular music, and then loosened them.
Edwin Pouncey, in The Wire, wrote:
They’re the greatest out-rock ‘n’ roll group of this millennium, and probably the next.
Wow. You don’t say. I wouldn’t know, truth to tell, I haven’t exactly taken a deep dive into their oeuvre (maybe I should!), but I always liked Waiting for Mary, which was a favourite of one my roommates, back in my days as a house painter. I likewise have no idea what this one is about, not a frigging clue – maybe it’s just about meeting a friend who’s always late? – but it chugs along so infectiously, no? It’s like an anarchic romp through a china shop, this one, with lyrics that suggest nothing so much as the complete disorientation of everyone involved:
Welcome to Mars!
It’s open all hours,
What are we doing here?
Bill’s in the back and
Fred’s on the phone, sayin,
“What are we doing here?”
I just love the pizzicato from the strings – a really nice touch.
I’m sure it means something, and I’m sure there’s some greater significance to waiting for this enigmatic Mary to show up, maybe it’s like waiting for Godot, I don’t know. Who cares? Let’s dance! I’m thinking this is the track I’ll choose for the first Saturday night patient-therapist rave-up in the nuthouse to which the men in the white smocks will soon be dragging me, the way things are going.