Experimental art punks Pere Ubu have been making challenging, controversial and satisfying music since 1975. Their latest release, Lady From Shanghai, shows that they haven’t run out of steam.
Lady From Shanghai warps the concepts of modern dance music. Pere Ubu takes danceable beats and repetitious choruses and grinds them up with cold, industrial sounds. The effect is isolating and nerve wracking. At its best, it feels thrilling and exotic. At worst, it’s rambling.
The record peaks early on with “Mandy.” It’s off-kilter, but unnatural synths and clarinet mesh with lead singer David Thomas’ sinister vocals. Over 7 minutes, the song builds into a macabre boogie that manages to be as invigorating as it is terrifying.
The concept of Lady From Shanghai is also strong on the opener “Thanks.” Pere Ubu reference other works of art often in their music, but here listeners will quickly recognize the melody from Anita Ward’s “Ring My Bell.” Thomas has perverted the song into “You can go to hell” creating an effective and clear opening statement.
Later on, the songs lose energy. “Lampshade Man” drags while wandering in no particular direction. “The Carpenter Sun” is a bunch of scattershot sounds that feels excessive.
Overall though, Pere Ubu tap into something primal on Lady from Shanghai and even those unfamiliar with the band will find bits and pieces that tug at the gut.
Pere Ubu will play at Hopscotch on Friday, September 6, at 12:30 am at Kings Barcade.