The other American genius: Pere Ubu at the Hi-Fi Indy

Avant-garage godfathers Pere Ubu play the Hi-Fi on Nov. 20!

Sometimes it seems as though there’s a law in the world of music. Essentially, that a band’s artistic influence is inversely proportional to their renown. There are exceptions, of course. The Beatles, Talking Heads, and the like. But how many people have heard of Television, or Suicide? And, come to that, just how many people know the name Pere Ubu?

A short history lesson

Taking their name from the Alfred Jarry play of the same name, Cleveland-based Pere Ubu released their first EP in 1975. Like many releases of its type, “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo” made no mainstream impact.

But it did make an impact underground. After giving the EP a listen, it’s not hard to understand why. Their sound matched none of the styles popular at the time. Too harsh and abrasive to be progressive rock, too technical to be punk, and certainly too wonky to mesh with the mainstream rock of the 70s.

Even now, Pere Ubu is difficult to classify. Art-punk? Post-punk? Garage rock? Experimental rock, being a broad classification, is likely the safest. Regardless of what to call their sound, without Pere Ubu, the alternative scene would look very different. No Joy Division, no Husker Du, and no Pixies.

While remaining a cult act, Pere Ubu still performs and releases music today. Hence the concert I’m telling you about.

Their sound

Pere Ubu’s sound is difficult to nail down, as I have said. Imagine throwing the Velvet Underground into an industrial press mid-performance and you might get close. Harsh, noise, repetitive minimalistic guitar riffs, clanking drums, all combined with frontman Dave Thomas’ loopy vocals. Theirs is a dark, enigmatic sound that spills from the depths of a mechanized hell. In addition, they do not use typical song structures, creating a free jazz mood as elliptical as it is menacing. This is a band that goes for maximum weirdness and reaches it with aplomb.

So, as always. The venue is the Hi-Fi, doors open at 8:00 p.m. See you there!


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