Artist: Pere Ubu
Pere Ubu is the most important band to ever come out of Cleveland. Actually, I’d argue that they’re one of the more important bands of the last 30 years, but let’s start off small, shall we? Anyway, the Good Ship Ubu has influenced, in chronological order, the No-Wave movement (DNA, Mars,), the post-punkers (Gang of Four, Scritti Politti, and even U2), the New Romantics (those oddball synth lines from the first Duran Duran album had to come from somewhere), “college rock” (Sonic Youth being direct descendents, and anyone from R.E.M. to Death of Samantha drinking from the well), industrial (Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, et al), and a whole host of other genre offshoots that you haven’t even heard about.
So what makes Pere Ubu so damn irresistible to a generation of artists? If I had the wherewithal and the desire, I could probably write a term paper answering that question. Instead, I’ll give a Cliff Notes summary – the use of atonality and abstraction within the context of traditional pop music. Aside from the Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart, the Stooges and a few other bands, popular music was either caught up in traditional harmonic structures or wanking around classic blues-based structures. Pere Ubu broke free of these traditional constraints by incorporating odd tunings, eschewing chords, employing fragmented lyrics, and using technology, specifically the synthesizer, to create white-noise landscapes and harrowing sound effects.
While their entire catalog is quite rewarding, Dub Housing
stands out as their masterwork. It finds the band attempting to balance the experimental with the engaging, creating an album that is challenging, yet compulsively listenable. The noise collages of “Thriller!” and “Blow Daddy-o” butt heads with the creepy AM radio-isms of “Ubu Dance Party,” and the infinitely danceable “On the Surface.” An out-of-control bass drives “I Will Wait,” which sounds at home with the quiet/loud dynamics of “Caligari’s Mirror.”
That’s my case for Pere Ubu as Cleveland’s musical standard bearer, then. So when you think Cleveland music, don’t think Michael Stanley…please? Seriously, don’t think of Michael Stanley. I mean, I’m sure he’s a nice guy and all, but…