Review Revue: Pere Ubu – Cloudland

It’s not often that the Review Revue files intersect with what’s going on in the present day, due to the archive-digging nature of this project, but every once in a while we get lucky. This week’s band, Pere Ubu – perhaps one of the longest-lived bands I’ve covered in this series – is playing tomorrow night at Neumos! It has been thirty-five years since the release of David Thomas and company’s debut album The Modern Dance, and they have been steadily releasing records ever since – with their longest gap occurring early on, when they broke up between 1982 and 1988. And they’re still going strong; this year they released their fourteenth studio album, Lady from Shanghai.

Cloudland was the second album released after the band’s 1988 reformation, and it came hot on the heels of its predecessor; there must have been a backlog of Ubu material built up during that downtime. Produced by Stephen Hague, whose previous gigs were with Jane Wiedlin and Erasure, this album is regarded as one of the poppiest albums to be released by the often wilfully idiosyncratic band. Based on the KCMU reaction, though, they were in no danger of swapping their inherent Pere Ubu-ness for some kind of ’80s synth-pop sound.

“Those squiggly synths . . . where did they go?”

“Allen Ravenstine’s not in the group anymore. That might be part of it. Although he is on this record.”

“They’re there only more subtle. By the way ->” “I LOVE THIS.”

“I don’t miss the ‘squiggly synths’ at all. As long as Tony Maimone is on bass, Chris Cutler on drums, Dave Thomas on vocals, I’m happy. [Unfortunately for this reviewer’s happiness, this appears to the be the last Pere Ubu album Cutler played on. But as far as I can tell Cutler only played on Cloudland and the previous LP and was replaced for several albums by founding/returning drummer Scott Krauss.] A fine release & better, I think, than the last ‘squiggly synth-dominated’ one.”

“I notice that they have adapted the AOR Beat. Bummer.”

“Squiggly synths or no, they do more with the basic guitar/bass/drums lineup than ‘most anyone else. After their re-grouping, they are living up to the ridiculously high expectations most people (me included) have for them.”

“Who woulda thought their new stuff would be so good?”

“I’m glad I don’t see any knee-jerk ‘sell-out’ reactions. Pere Ubu has made a fine basic rock ‘n’ roll album (in their own inimitable fashion), of course.”

“This doesn’t do much for me.” [This naysaying opinion, appropriately enough, is stranded in tiny print on its own little white label off to the side.]

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