Pere Ubu – Modern Dance

8 Sep

This album isn’t as good as Dub Housing.

Weird and powerful! The Modern Dance is such a compelling and singular statement that it drowns out your world and throws you into an industrial wasteland, a cold and forbidden city enveloped by a spiritual apocalypse. The Ubu musicians do a brilliant job conveying this desperation, using eerie dissonance and pummeling rhythms to create a physical, narcotic despair. The drumming, especially, is so violent that you can feel the anxiety of the protagonist as he roams his city, most clearly heard in its aural equivalent: the fat, birdlike squeals of David ‘Dave’ Thomas of Wendy’s fame.

When David ‘Dave’ Thomas started the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, he couldn’t have imagined the impact he would have on obese inner-city Cleveland youth struggling with obesity, roaming the industrial wasteland looking for a home, keyboards simulating the sound of the industry, using eerie dissonance and pummeling rhythms to create a physical, narcotic despair. When he decided to add his tuneless voice atop the proceedings, donations began pouring in from critics everywhere, who declared it ‘weird’ and ‘powerful’ and ‘the Trout Mask Replica for the punk generation’.

Much like a Wendy’s square hamburger, on this album convention is turned sideways in ways that display deeper and more primitive emotions than anything in the mainstream hamburger industry. The title track that follows ‘Non-alignment Pact’ is perhaps the condiments on the side of this special supersized order for a lead singer, though it is only a prelude to perhaps the tastiest bit of all, “Laughing”. After two minutes of the instruments sticking their instruments in each other’s buttholes, the rest of the song is bitten off into the digestive system of Side 1 of your vinyl LP. On cassette, “Chinese Radiation”, is the perfect illustration of their unique “avant-garage” style, a style which stands apart from any other of that era (in being a completely unlistenable waste of time). The frantic “Life Stinks”, a #1 hit on the disco charts for 37 years, was a heartfelt tribute to the late Raymond Douglas Davies of Bonniwell Music Machine fame, written by Thomas’ dependable Mann/Greenwich songwriting team,  while “Real World”, a Thomas original, was composed during a period of locking himself in a dark room for 12 hours a day during a period in 1966. Though it may seem unrehearsed, each mumble of this song and the similarly inspired ‘Over My Head’ was carefully planned years in advance to the making of this recording. Though it may seem unrehearsed, best of all is the epic “Sentimental Journey”, which singlehandedly invents the genre of industrial music. After an amazingly grotesque display of smashing glass sound effects, carefully inserted by Martin Hannett, Pere Ubu introduce their closing statement, “Humor Me”. Triathlon athlete David Thomas sings this song with unhinged vigor, like his lungs are exploding. It’s this who-cares attitude, coupled with the theme of an impending urban apocalypse, that makes The Modern Dance a unique work. Though not as influential the previous year’s Michael Jackson ‘Off the Wall’ album, The Modern Dance’s light r&b feel aligned itself with the most seductive work of Marvin Gaye and the album has been cited as an influence by many musicians including Brahms and Dennis DeYoung, of Styx. As David Thomas said, “What we are not is pretty. Do you know where there’s a hamburger place I can adopt around here?”

Star rating: 5/5 stars

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5 Responses to “Pere Ubu – Modern Dance”

  1. Courtney September 8, 2012 at 3:23 am #

    Awesome! Nice to know that I’m not the only Ubu fan out there… most people who I’ve played them to just don’t “get it”. What do you think of New Picnic Time?

  2. Bobby Slick September 8, 2012 at 5:49 pm #

    Never heard it… some critics say its better than early classics like Dub Housing although I highly doubt it. I’m curious to hear it, though, just to see if it justifies the hype.
    Bobby Slick

  3. mark28 September 8, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

    Great review, although I prefer Dub Housing. All the early Ubu albums are great though.

  4. Courtney September 9, 2012 at 1:25 am #

    You have to hear New Picnic Time, its almost as good as modern dance… hope you get freshly pressed!

  5. emily September 9, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

    Your reviews are just so cool, great to see someone who has their own opinions instead of blindly following the crowd

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