Monday, June 13, 2011

73. Pere Ubu, "Nonalignment Pact" (1978)


I can't say I have been a faithful fan every step of the way, but I have always maintained interest in these hard-edged heartland rock avant-gardists, fronted by David Thomas, the original pear-shaped object, with a host of brilliant imps. My interest was sufficiently reawakened in the early '90s, around the time of Story of My Life, that I ventured out to see them. I must say it was a very exciting show—somehow, in the moment, it felt like witnessing history, which I guess is another way of saying that the band packs a good deal of charisma along with everything else they do. They fully occupied a very small stage I managed to stand 15 feet away from, and I was fascinated most of the night by whoever that was working the theremin stage-right. But first impressions tell, and this first track from the first side of their first album, The Modern Dance, has been on the short list of my perennial Pere Ubu favorites from the start, narrowly beating out "Final Solution" and, perhaps, "30 Seconds Over Tokyo." You will note the contextual grounding of all three in grand geopolitical matters of the 20th century—and leave it to David Thomas to find his greatest inspiration for a love theme in the language of confrontational diplomacy: "I wanna make a deal with you girl / And get it signed by the heads of state," he declares once "Nonalignment Pact" has fully coalesced from wispy evocative noise into rock 'n' roll full-blown, complete with a train whistle. Which brings me to my next point: while I appreciate their various gestures and feints toward musique concrete and other sound experimentations, some of which occupy the majority of some of their albums, I'm more happy when they choose to rock. Because when they choose to rock, few can approach them. There's evidence here.


  1. If you can make it though the first 30 seconds, there's a great tune to be heard.

  2. Ha -- yes indeed. Therein lies the problem for me with some of the earlier albums by Pere Ubu.