Pere Ubu's 1989 album Cloudland seemed like a strange pop anomaly to many longtime fans, but unbeknown to them the group had something even slicker up its sleeve. Gil Norton, best known for his work with the Pixies, was brought in to produce 1991's Worlds in Collision, and it marked an even more dramatic attempt to fuse Pere Ubu's sensibilities with the pop mainstream (which, in the year Nirvana would break through with Nevermind, probably didn't seem quite as forbidding a place as it once did). With Allen Ravenstine largely out of the picture (he amicably quit the band to pursue a career as a pilot) and the less willfully eccentric Eric Drew Feldman taking his place, Pere Ubu were a less noisy ensemble this time out, and under Norton's tutelage David Thomas' vocals gained a new degree of precision and control (though no amount of coaching and mix-fixing would ever turn the guy into, say, Morrissey). However, while Norton buffed off even more of the rough edges of Pere Ubu's approach than Stephen Hague on Cloudland, the group created a bizarro-world triumph; "I Hear They Smoke the Barbecue" is a brilliant pop single that still finds room for Ubu's lyrical obsessions and clattering sonic underpinnings, the opening "Oh Catherine" is pretty in a way Thomas' vocals have never been before, "Mirror Man" is a sideways shout-out to a primal influence, "Cry Cry Cry" finds room for a dash of country twang in the Ubu formula, and "Turpentine!" is as crazy as they wanna be. If there were ever a band destined never to make the charts, it's Pere Ubu, but not unlike the Velvet Underground's Loaded, Worlds in Collision shows that they could make an album capable of appealing to a broader audience without losing touch with what made them a singular creative force in the first place, something not every band that signed to a major label was able to manage.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming