Monkeys and clowns. They’ll bounce around. At least that’s what Pere Ubu’s David Thomas tells us on the first track of Ubu’s new album 20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo. It must be an important message. In that song, “Monkey Bizness,” he repeats it over and over again, sometimes exclaiming, “Sex clowns! Bounce around!”
Nonsense? Probably. But it’sinspired nonsense. And most important, it’s rocking nonsense. In fact, 20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo, by my estimation, is the most outright rocking studio album Pere Ubu has unleashed in about a decade, maybe longer. No, the band hasn’t forsaken its heritage of avant-garde, experimental, atmospheric sounds. But they also haven’t forgotten how to make your feet move and head bang either. As Thomas himself explains in the official press release, “To my way of thinking, the new album is The James Gang teaming up with Tangerine Dream. Or something like that.”
For those who haven’t followed Ubu for all these decades (the 40th anniversary of the group’s first album, The Modern Dance, is coming up next year), this Cleveland band emerged during the punk and New Wave scare of the late ’70s, even though they’d been around several years before they made their first album. But they didn’t sound like your typical punk outfit. Their foundation was clearly garage and surf rock, but with their darkly bizarre lyrics, Thomas’ warbling vocals, and Plan 9 From Outer Space-esque synth noises, Ubu was a unique force.