Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


Archive for the ‘Pere Ubu’ Category

As good an explanation of my favorite band as you’re likely to find

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Today’s Music Video

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Yes, it’s Pere Ubu again — but it’s my blog, and I’m trying to evangelize. Or, at least, be understood.

So why do I so love this video of “Folly of Youth”?

It reminds me how sexy Michele Temple is. I took a friend with me to see the band on the tour that accompanied this album release in 1995 (hard to believe now that it was that long ago). He was a novice, and he was smitten too. Her bass line fills my dreams.

I love the way Jim Jones warps the guitar tones with feedback.

I think the song, and David Thomas’ singing, are hypnotic. To me anyway.

And I could watch Robert Wheeler play that homemade theremin all day. Very much calls to mind this.

It’s like Ringo personally mailed me the new Beatles CD, only better

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009


Last week, Pere Ubu guru David Thomas kindly emailed me to say he’d make sure that I got the new Ubu disk, as well as the recent CD he produced for 15-60-75 (the Numbers band), in the mail.

The Numbers’ disk arrived two days ago and I’ve just started to explore its deep soulful blues.

Today in my mail, there was the new Pere Ubu disk. In a hand-addressed bubble mailer. With the hand-written return address of… Steve Mehlman, the drummer.

This has just gotten better and better.

“Punk” makes good

Sunday, September 20th, 2009


Imagine my delight — and astonishment — at seeing Pere Ubu written up in today’s LA Times.

The headline of the piece attaches the band to punk music, which I think is unfortunate. Whatever the definition of “punk” now, it does more to limit than to explain. If The Clash and Elvis Costello and Husker Du and the Sex Pistols and Pere Ubu are or were all “punk,” then I surely don’t know what it is. First and foremost, through all its incarnations, Pere Ubu always has been a band, a band with a particular (though evolving) sound, and that sound has little to do with anyone we think of as “punk.” I understand the need of the human brain to confine things to groupings, but it’s unfortunate when groupings remove subtle shades of difference.

That quibble aside, I’m delighted to see the band in today’s newspaper.

You’re in good company

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Imagine my thrill when David Thomas of Pere Ubu emailed me just now to thank me for this blog post. In return, I tried very hard not to sound like a sycophant.


Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Yes, today is 9/9/09, the day that a bunch of 40-year-old albums by a certain band got re-released in various CD re-packagings, to the delight of millions around the world.

For others among us, it was another day in the countdown toward the new Pere Ubu album, “Long Live Pere Ubu!” Even if it turns out I hate it, I guarantee it’ll be far more artistically provocative than any other new music coming out this month. Yes, the Beatles were provocative. Forty years ago.

The new Ubu album brings together two things I’ve been interested in for a long time:  the band Pere Ubu, and the inspiration for their name, Alfred Jarry’s “Ubu Roi.” “Ubu Roi” was an adolescent prank — a play written by a high-school kid to mock his teacher. I wrote a novel in a similar tone when I was the same age, but my novel’s still in a box somewhere while Jarry’s play radically changed its artform. (Do we get to have Ionesco, or Theatre of the Absurd as a whole, without Jarry? Probably not.)

Fittingly, Pere Ubu the band has been every  bit as influential as “Ubu Roi,” and even more doggedly uncommercial. One of the bonus features on an Ubu CD is a series of documents, including one that references an album’s sales as numbering about 6,000. This for a band with a three-decade history and a sound that influenced Nine Inch Nails, the Pixies (and, therefore, Nirvana), Joy Division, REM, Thomas Dolby, Hüsker Dü, Henry Rollins, Bauhaus, and innumerable others including the entire industrial-rock movement, a band rightfully recognized in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (albeit in an undeservedly small corner), where one of singer David Thomas’ instruments is proudly displayed:  a railroad spike with accompanying ball peen hammer. And if you listen closely enough, you can hear that very instrument on some early tracks where it is played to perfection.

This FAQ about the rationale behind the concept and recording of “Long Live Pere Ubu!” speaks to some of the many reasons I love this band. Imagine this sentiment, by David Thomas about the resurgent appearance of the monstrous Pere Ubu wherever you look, being uttered by any other recording artist this long in the game:  “Regardless of whoever or whatever it is that you personally choose to lionize, it’s more than likely that such a person or organization is Père Ubu. Every talking head that you see and admire on the tv is Père Ubu.” Thirty-four years on, 20 years past the last gasping relevance of the Rolling Stones, Pere Ubu retains the industrial crackle of original thought. That makes every new CD by them a release worthy of anticipation.

Today’s music video

Friday, September 4th, 2009

In two short weeks, the new Pere Ubu album, “Love Live Pere Ubu!” comes out. (Its sales will in no way threaten those of 40-year-old “new” Beatles albums released at the same time.)

From that new CD, here’s “Song Of The Grocery Police,” as animated by The Quay Brothers.

Vinyl solution

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

390 Degrees of Simulated Stereo was the first Pere Ubu album I bought — and I bought it on vinyl. I remember slapping that onto the turntable in the house that I shared with my then-girlfriend (now wife) shared in Ocean City and getting absolutely blown away by the sonic roar that came from the speakers. I have that album on CD now too, but the impact isn’t the same. So I do understand the allure of vinyl, and some of the possible causes for its apparent rise from the grave, as documented in this piece from the LA Times. But let’s take a moment to remember why some of us were so glad to get to cassette tapes (and then CDs, and then digital files):

  1. Just try playing a vinyl record in your car. Hit one bump and it’s all over.
  2. I have several Pere Ubu albums on my iPhone, always by my side. Now imagine my stapling the vinyl versions onto my belt and walking around with them. Wouldn’t work so well.
  3. With digital downloads, you don’t run the risk of accidentally having to see the cover of Frampton Comes Alive again. Now imagine flipping through your records and seeing it there.
  4. My digital download of David Byrne & Brian Eno’s last album will never get mold on it. Which I can’t say for my old Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band album.
  5. I don’t need boxes to store all the downloads.
  6. I don’t have to get up to flip a download to side two.
  7. Finally (although I could go on in this vein), I’ve never played had digital download develop a heart-rending big frickin’ scratch all the way across it after just one play. Which is precisely what seemed to happen with every brand-new LP circa 1979.

No, I was glad to see cassette tapes arrive, and even gladder for CD’s. To me, this vinyl craze is yet another reminder that the past wasn’t that golden, and some of us are glad to have left it behind.

Today’s music video

Monday, March 30th, 2009

In honor of the mistreated guy at A.I.G., today’s music video is “March of Greed” by Pere Ubu, animated by the Brothers Quay.

(And why does the band Pere Ubu sing about “Pere Ubu”? Because the band is named after the character, and this video is taken from “Bring Me The Head Of Ubu Roi,” an adaptation of Alfred Jarry’s “Ubu Roi.” Which had better come to L.A., or I warn you, someone will pay the price.)

By the way, if you like the song — and who wouldn’t? — you can download it free here.