Pere Ubu – 20 Years In A Montana Missile Silo

Posted: 11 September 2017 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Cherry Red Records – 29th September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Forty-two years on from their inception and David Thomas’ Pere Ubu are still cranking them out. Significantly, they’ve continued to push parameters and stubbornly refused to bow to commercial concerns, pursuing the production of art over commerce. On this outing, Thomas has assembled quite an impressive ensemble, for ‘a three-guitar revision [which] sees Keith Moliné, Gary Siperko and Kristof Hahn (Swans) expand the established orchestra of analog and digital synths (Wheeler, Gagarin), clarinet (Boon), drums (Mehlman) and Thomas’ unique vocals.

For the most part, 20 Years In A Montana Missile Silo is a set of swampy, snaking blues-based workouts, although it certainly explores the full expanse of the core aspects – and explore is the operative word here. Experimentalism has always been a defining feature of Pere Ubu’s output, and 20 Years is no exception. But there’s nothing indulgent about it: in fact, it packs more than its share of driving garage rock, and half he songs clock in at under two and a half-minutes.

If the slow and meandering ‘Cold Sweat’, which borders on romantic post-rock, seems like an odd choice of opener, its simply testament to Thomas’ perverse will and fans should know what to expect by now. So, the melody is off and the quavering croon is vaguely uncomfortable, but the payoff hits immediately afterwards with the locked-in blues jam of ‘Funk 49’, which finds Pere Ubu come on like The John Giorno band, with a real swagger. It’s entirely out of step with anything contemporary, but then, even echoing 80s beat poetry, it doesn’t actually sit comfortably anywhere.

‘Howl’ isn’t a reference to Allen Ginsberg’s celebrated poem, however, but does find Thomas swing between Jim Morrison and Howlin’ Wolf as he lurches through some murky psychedelic blues. From the stealthy, woozy atmospherics of ‘I Can Still See’, to the uptempo rock ‘n’ roll attack of ‘Monkey Bizness’, with its warped lyrics and off-kilter splurges of synth, 20 Years has a range and dynamism which contrive to shape a rounded and exciting album. The slurred blur of ‘Walking Again’ closes the album with a drawling, dark derangement.

The brevity of the tracks doesn’t feel like they’re sketchy or incomplete, but imbued the album with a punchy directness. Similarly, even the more freeform compositions aren’t indulgently long, with none of the pieces stretching beyond five minutes, meaning that the experimentalism is very much kept in check and the focus on songs retained. And ultimately, songs are important. There’s no waste on 20 Years In A Montana Missile Silo, and there’s no chaff, either: for all its experimentalism, it’s a tight, taut and lean album overall. It’s also really rather good, and an album that shows that even after more than four decades, Pere Ubu can produce music that’s more thrilling than the majority of contemporary acts.

Pere-Ubu-20-Years-Front-Cover

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