Pere Ubu: The Shape of Things (Hearthan)
Three tracks from this set have already made it onto vinyl/cd - for all you millions of Pere Ubu fans out there. On the other hand, the rest of the set hasn’t...which means you need it! On the other hand, for those of you who haven’t yet discovered Ubu...well, try the “The Modern Dance” first...‘cause mid/late 70s Pere Ubu was (and is) one of the very finest rock’n’roll bands of all time...
And this set also includes the (great) Peter Laughner on guitar...sadly soon to follow his self-destructive muse to its logical conclusion.
Well...what does it sound like?
To be sure, the source was a cassette...so, we can’t expect miracles. On the other hand, given the source, the result is is damned impressive. As the allmusic review says... “The feeling that almost anything could happen is tangible.” The result, to my mind, is something unparalleled. In the studio, Ubu were more poised and angular...but live, especially at this stage, they rocked ferociously...being but months away from Rocket From The Tombs.
“Heart of Darkness” opens...a huge version (nearly eight minutes long) that transforms the darkly masterful groove of the studio version into something brutely physical. Rhythm guitars careen like Rocket From the Tombs at their best, and both Laughner & Herman are in savagely atonal form on their lead excursions...the band would never sound half as savage again...and all for a tiny (and extremely lucky) audience. “30 Seconds Over Tokyo” & “Final Solution”, in particular, strip paint off the walls...in a way their studio counterparts never quite did.
The only thing lacking - aside from a better quality master! - is Allen Ravenstein...who didn’t want to play live at this stage, and was replaced (as on their second single) by the underrated Dave Thomas, on EML syth & the defiantly cheap Ace Tone organ.
There’s an earlier/slower version of what became “Non Alignment Pact” in “Gone Gone Gone”, but the old/new songs we know are otherwise largely in their final form...although many - esp. “30 Seconds Over Tokyo” - are restored to their (original) epic dimensions. For good measure, there’re also covers of Seeds, Velvets & Stooges classics, of which my favourite is their monstrous attack on “I Wanna Be Your Dog” (admittedly, an autodestructive “Heroin” comes damn close), complete w/some of Peter Laughner’s most eloquent playing...and a sad reminder of what the world lost went he went missing.
As I said before, not for the novice...but clearly essential for everyone else.
John Henry Calvinist