interesting to note the bemusement and head scratching that has accompanied the
release of the latest album by David Thomas’s long-running musical act. This is
the same band that spilled buckets of tar-thick darkness over the structures of
post-punk rock, stripped down the sound into their version of an alterna-pop
act with the albums Cloudland and Worlds In Collision and then finished
out the ’90s and welcomed the new millennium with soupy and surreal concept
albums. But now people are balking at a soundtrack to the band’s multimedia
musical theater adaptation of Alfred Jarry’s absurdist play, Ubu Roi, which gave the group its name?
You were expecting a techno album?
worth grousing about is that we are only given an audio representation of this
piece. The bellowing, clattering music and the chorus of voices (include Thomas
as the titular Pere Ubu and former Communards member Sarah-Jane Morris as Mere
Ubu) works well enough on its own, but would be even more captivating when
accompanied by the Brothers Quay animations and artful presentation given to
the stage production. This release cries out to be joined with a DVD of a live
it on its own, though, you are forced to take the music on its own terms.
There’s plenty of time to savor the nuances that are hiding in the cracks of
this album, such as the elastic voice of Morris. Her brassy vocals were
custom-made for musical theater, filling her spoken and sung lines with emotion
and humor. She makes for a great counterpoint to Thomas’s distinctive pipes
which stick mostly to a lower register when he isn’t growling out dialog or
belching horrifically. The music, too, goes through various iterations, from
minimalist electronica (“Less Said The Better”) to driving rock
(“Road To Reason”) to slowly simmering circus band-style swing.
Standout tracks: “Snowy
Livonia,” “Road To Reason,” “Watching The Pigeons”