Nuke the Whales 2006-2014

Pere Ubu

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Nuke the Whales 2006-2014 Review

by Heather Phares

Over the course of their long career, Pere Ubu only made music when they felt like it. Flurries of activity punctuated by sizable hiatuses were routine for the band, which makes the late 2000s and early 2010s -- one of the longest continuous stints in their existence -- such an intriguing time for them. Nuke the Whales 2006-2014 collects Pere Ubu's output from this nearly decade-long span, which found them looking to literature, drama, and film for inspiration and delivering works that lived up to their reputation for subversion. On 2006's Why I LUV Women (which was renamed for this collection), David Thomas and company presented love songs that framed their one-of-a-kind surrealism in the literary tradition of Jim Thompson's gritty crime fiction. "Babylonian Warehouses" teeters between fear and attraction as Thomas intones "I fear it's you/I hope it's you" over crawling atmospheres; on the aptly combustive "Caroleen," he sings the praises of a woman so hot "her name rhymes with gasoline/Her perfume, I think it's turpenteen." With 2009's Long Live Père Ubu!, the band adapted the 1896 Alfred Jarry play that provided their name into a rock opera that made the most of the discord at the heart of their music as well as the work's revolutionary wit. While the charging "Road to Reason" is of a piece with the outbursts on the other albums included on Nuke the Whales, at times Long Live Père Ubu! is far more unsettling -- and surprisingly funny. On "The Story So Far," Thomas' Père Ubu and Communards' Sarah Jane Morris (as Ubu's scheming wife) whisper not-so-sweet nothings to each other while Gagarin's electronics make the song's slinky underpinnings all the stranger. Thomas described Long Live Père Ubu! as the first truly punk album in 30 years, and he's not far off -- even within the band's discography, it's a jolting, potent listening experience like few others. The opera's theatricality extended to the other albums collected on Nuke the Whales, 2013's The Lady from Shanghai and 2014's Carnival of Souls. The former album, which was released on the 35th anniversary of Pere Ubu's debut album, The Modern Dance, proved they could set paranoia, loathing, and the downright weird to a beat, with results ranging from the obsessive rhythms of "Mandy" to the inversion of Anita Ward's "Ring My Bell" on the album opener "Thanks." The latter album, which expanded on the band's score for Herk Harvey's influential, low-budget 1962 horror movie, puts Pere Ubu's stamp on the film's iconic imagery with songs as wide-ranging as the thundering surf-meets-metal workout "Golden Surf II," the zombie-like crawl of "Carnival," the circular doom of "Drag the River," and the lovely "Irene." As with Pere Ubu's other era-defining collections like Elitism for the People 1975-1978 or Architecture of Language 1979-1982, Nuke the Whales 2006-2014 does justice to the music they were making at the time, and the darkly captivating tales on these albums are well worth revisiting.

Track Listing - Disc 4

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Pere Ubu SpotifyAmazon
2 Pere Ubu SpotifyAmazon
3 Pere Ubu SpotifyAmazon
4 Pere Ubu SpotifyAmazon
5 Pere Ubu SpotifyAmazon
6 Pere Ubu SpotifyAmazon
7 Pere Ubu SpotifyAmazon
8 Pere Ubu SpotifyAmazon
9 Pere Ubu SpotifyAmazon
10 Pere Ubu SpotifyAmazon
blue highlight denotes track pick