Never meet your heroes. Or email them. David Thomas of Pere Ubu is one of my musical heroes and I have done both, the latter more recently, but neither was well advised as you will see.
Pere Ubu are releasing their new album "Long Live Père Ubu!" this September. This is an album of songs taken from the theatrical production Bring Me The Head Of Ubu Roi," which premiered over two days at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, April 25 and 26, 2008. Between the stage show and the album is 'the Radio Play':
An on-going effort to turn the theatrical production into a film, directed by The Brothers Quay, prompted Thomas to assemble an audio storyboard. At the same time the script was revised and improved into Version 2 of "Bring Me The Head Of Ubu Roi" and was incorporated into a recording known as the Radio Play, which includes all dialog, songs, and ambient sound, and achieves the original plan for the project.
Through the good auspices/interventions of Mr M of London Town I was sent a CDR of the radio play by David Thomas plus copied in on an email exchange which sugggested he would be 'interested to know what I think'. Oh lord. I sat on this 'chore' for several months as I tried to work out what to write, what to say, and how not to appear stupid. Here's what I wrote:
Well firstly it’s difficult to write anything as a long time Pere Ubu fan without sounding idiotic or sycophantic or both. But in brief: I like it. It makes perfect sense and another worthy satellite in orbit around Ubu like DT&2PB, the Mirror Man album/tour, and the live film underscores. There’s enough that is familiar and unfamiliar to both reassure and to engage. The instrumentation and overall sound is familiar but the thing that really struck me was the voices – the range and variety is novel but captivating - Sarah Jane Morris excels. The whole blends humour and malevolence in equal measure and – not being familiar with the Jarry play – the overall narrative was clearly intelligible. It requires close listening and is not going to woo the uninitiated I suspect; but is something I will definitely keep in rotation with other Ubu and related albums.
And as you see I managed to be sycophantic AND idiotic. Nice one. Unsurprisingly I received no reply (not that I was expecting one). You can make up your own mind about the radio play because it is now available to download for free in installments.
The podcast series of 8 episodes from Pere Ubu's ground-breaking project "Bring Me The Head Of Ubu Roi" is up and running at www.hearpen.com, the band's own audio download web site. It can be subscribed to thru iTunes. A direct link to the podcast can be reached thru here. Embedded in the podcasts are songs from "Long Live Père Ubu!, as well as dialog and electronic ambience. Sarah Jane Morris (ex-Communards, Happy End) performs the role of Mère Ubu, partnering Thomas who performs as Père Ubu. Other members of the band supply the voices of other characters.
And as you see from the band credits not only "voices of other characters" but "belching galore": The Band: David Thomas - "Père Ubu," xiosynth, organ, bass; Sarah Jane Morris - "Mère Ubu"; Keith Moliné - guitar, vocals; Robert Wheeler - EML synthesizer, theremin, vocals; Gagarin - electronica; Michele Temple - bass, vocals, other instruments; Steve Mehlman - drums, vocals, belching galore, percussion
The first tour date in support of "Long Live Père Ubu!" is at London's ICA on Friday, Sept 25 (dates in Europe here). Tickets are on sale now. If I get to this gig, I won't make the mistake of trying to meeting David Thomas as I did in his dressing room in 1997. But that's a story of more idiocy and sycophancy for another time.