pere ubu - The I-94 Bar
The Barman sent me a message asking some folks to tell us all about our 2020 top tens.
Apart from new recordings from the likes of Hugo Race, Velatine and Michael Plater, and the other few I've written about during the year, I've not been listening to a lot of music. Read a lot (including the three books I've reviewed here - the best three music books I've read this year), including a few Stephen King, Clark Ashton Smith, John Wyndham and a few books on plagues past and present.
But really. 2020, huh? What a trip. So many dead. Wept more than a few times myself - but hey, my life's a doddle by comparison to the misery of so many.
But hey! First, we got to see an utterly evil President of the United States trainwreck, taint (and generally fist-fuck with studded gloves) any world-wide respect the USA ever had. I don't use the term 'evil' lightly.
Apart from being genuinely narcissistic and wilfully ignorant, Papa Ubu took great delight in splitting the country into a condition very close to civil war, while being utterly unmoved by the hundreds of thousands who got ill, and the thousands who have died, of which he is a goodly part to blame. If you wrote a modern take on Pere Ubu, Trump would be your starting point.
Ever heard an album from a band you’d thought had all but put the cue in the rack only to be knocked out of your seat? The Holy Soul has been slogging away around Sydney for a decade or more as one of those acts playing the all-too-familiar Game of Diminishing Returns.
You know that one. It’s where, through a combination of fickle fandom, demographic-driven media, venue turnover and diverging member interests, a band fades from view like the white dot on an analogue TV screen.
Appearances are deceptive. There’s been a bit happening in the background. In terms of getting onto the mainstream radar, however, The Holy Soul have been perpetual victims of their own nature. People like to grasp the familiar and The Holy Soul has traded in a strange mix of blues-rock that’s impossible to pigeonhole. So let’s all resist trying.
Sydney band The Holy Soul have a way with collaborating with the rich, at least in in history, and infamous. Here’s another example of that maverick magic.
Seven years ago, The Holy Soul combined with Damo Suzuki (Can) and a Drone to punch out a live album on Repressed. This time out, it’s a half-studio/half-live 45 of similar vintage, this time with Rocket From The Tombs and Pere Ubu frontman David Thomas, with whom they played on a blink-and-you-miss-it Australian visit.
“Master of The Universe” is the A side (it’s a Hawkwind cover) and hovers between industrial skronk and space rock. Theremin and a throbbing bottom end underlay dry guitars and Thomas’s unique, plaintive vocal. A melange of guitars - presumably John Hunter and Trent Marden or both - and synth raises the tension in the breakdown before Sam Worrad’s hypnotic bass resumes its ominous march.
The live “Man In The Dark” starts with the wheeze of Thomas's accordion wheeze and plays itself out with restraint for its five-minute duration. Delicate guitars chime to a subtle bass-line while Thomas expounds on (I think) a lapsed relationship, half-talking, half-crooning. Measured and magnificent. it was left off the live album that you can find here. The link below will lead you to the single. Odds are it won't last long.
There was a time when sharp divisions ran like Pacific Rim fault-lines between underground musical factions in Sydney.
One one tectonic plate stood the Radio Birdman-influenced, leather-clad, guitar warriors steeped in ramalama-fa-fa-fa and the Stooges, on the other an esoteric bunch of people making sounds with synthesisers and other assorted machines. Picket lines were established and few crossed them, unless by accident or if no-one was looking.