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The Tenement Year (Expanded Edition) [Remastered]

Pere Ubu

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Album Review

Several years after Pere Ubu had gone their separate ways following the release of 1982's Song of the Bailing Man, many of the group's former members began finding their way into David Thomas' post-Ubu project the Wooden Birds until 1988, when what the group has called "the Duck Principle" took effect — namely that if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's a duck. With Thomas joined by Allen Ravenstine, Jim Jones, Tony Maimone, and Scott Krauss (as well as post-Ubu interloper Chris Cutler), the Wooden Birds quacked like Pere Ubu all right, and if some fans griped that 1988's The Tenement Year was a Pere Ubu album primarily because Ubu could command a bigger advance than the Wooden Birds, those fans probably didn't give the album a close listen. If The Tenement Year is more "user friendly" than The Modern Dance or Dub Housing, it picks up naturally enough from where the group left off with Song of the Bailing Man, and the whimsy of that album has certainly been blunted here, with Ravenstine's chaotic synthesizer patterns leaving a trail of Dadaesque chaos wherever they go and the rest of the band driving with a force that was both limber and ever so slightly malevolent. Though David Thomas' work with the Wooden Birds was (and remains) underappreciated, he also sounds jazzed to be back with seasoned collaborators on these sessions (particularly on "George Had a Hat" and "The Hollow Earth"), and "We Have the Technology" is at once the strangest and most heartfelt love song of its era. The Tenement Year managed the neat trick of reestablishing Pere Ubu's strengths while giving them a new lease on life and some fresh musical directions, and it features the clearest sonic links between the band's first and second eras. [The Tenement Year was reissued in 2007 in a new edition mastered by David Thomas and producer Paul Hamann. The new disc's audio is crisp and well detailed, and five bonus tracks have been included — two non-LP B-sides, two songs from a John Peel radio session, and an alternate mix of "The Hollow Earth." The booklet includes a fine liner essay from David Stubbs and notes from Ubu on this edition of the album.]

Biography

Formed: August, 1975 in Cleveland, OH

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Pere Ubu emerged from the urban wastelands of mid-'70s Cleveland to impact the American underground for generations to follow; led by hulking frontman David Thomas, whose absurdist warble and rapturously demented lyrics remained the band's creative focus throughout their long, convoluted career, Ubu's protean art punk sound harnessed self-destructing melodies, scattershot rhythms, and industrial-strength dissonance to capture the angst and chaos of their times with both apocalyptic fervor and surprising...
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