Pere Ubu

B Each B Oys See Dee +

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The bad news: David Thomas is the only original member left. And that's not minor bad news, either -- though his has always been the defining vision of Pere Ubu, Allen Ravenstine's bleeping, blooping EML synth and Tony Maimone's rock-solid basslines have always been as integral to the Ubu sound as Thomas' strangled-penguin vocals and pastoral-bizarre lyrics. It's not that newcomers like bassist Michele Temple and synthesist Robert Wheeler don't keep the faith (Wheeler's theremin work is particularly inspired), it's just that what they're doing is keeping the faith, and that really isn't enough. Ray Gun Suitcase, the album from which this CD single is drawn, is good post-Cloudland Pere Ubu; it veers between forbidding weirdness ("Folly of Youth" and a really awful cover of "Surfer Girl") and endearingly quirky tunefulness ("Turquoise Fins"), just like the best of Ubu's recent work, but it doesn't ever achieve the special Ubitude that animated Tenement Years and Cloudland, which may have been the two best Ubu releases since The Modern Dance.

The good news, however, is also nothing to sniff at: Thomas has discovered the Macintosh. That means that this otherwise unassuming little CD single is more than just a single -- it also includes tons of Ubu cyber-ephemera for the discerning computer-equipped nostalgist, as well as up-to-date videos and live concert footage, financial records, weird animations, lists of band policies, etc. Thomas apparently wrote all the code himself, so if you can imagine the same brain that created Monster Walks the Winter Lake creating multimedia rock & roll, then you know what to expect. It's wonderful. David Thomas is one of the funniest writers around, and the text files alone are worth the money -- the videos are fun, too. Even if you don't feel like you need to hear the demo versions of "Memphis" and "Down by the River," seeking out these discs is still strongly recommended.

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