Agony Shorthand

Thursday, April 29, 2004
PERE UBU AND THEIR EGGHEAD PALS…..If it’s true that you’re judged by the company you keep, then PERE UBU in the mid/late 70s ought to be very highly regarded indeed. Which, of course, they are, on their own gargantuan merits and for those other Clevelanders they helped nurture along the way. A CD that sheds light on who they were hanging out with in the epochal 1974-78 period is the outstanding “Terminal Drive: Pere Ubu Rarities” , the 5th CD in the Pere Ubu “Datapanik In The Year Zero” box set. The CD is one of the best extras I’ve seen in a box set – one entire disc devoted to unreleased or barely-released side projects (CARNEY & THOMAS, TRIPOD JIMMIE, DAVID THOMAS solo), pre-Ubu bands (like ROCKET FROM THE TOMBS), and mid-70s fellow travelers like the ELECTRIC EELS and MIRRORS. The actual years this thing spans are 1972 (TOM HERMAN’s spastic “Steve Canyon Blues”) to 1982 (the throbbing, weird density of Herman’s TRIPOD JIMMIE), with an obvious bias toward artistically complex but primal rock and roll. Highlights – and other than a pointless Allen Ravenstein synth-wash, they’re ALL highlights – are the intelligent, Beefheart-inspired dance music of FOREIGN BODIES and HOME & GARDEN; the early, harder-rocking “30 Seconds Over Tokyo” from ROCKET FROM THE TOMBS, and a revealing practice tape by “Proto Ubu” in which Peter Laughner gently instructs the rest of the band on how to play “Heart of Darkness” (only one of the greatest rock songs of all time). And don’t miss the rare 1979 Hearpen 45 from PRESSLER-MORGAN, “You’re Gonna Watch Me”, in which a girlish-sounding Charlotte Pressler (Ubu guitarist Laughner’s wife and an early Cleveland rock chronicler of some renown) spins a yarn around spying on her neighbors. Top-drawer stuff.