Why I Hate Women
...ecause I got a misdirection! Pere Ubu's Dave Thomas bellowed this from the icy factory-riddled bowels of Ohio back in the late 70's, when punk was being re/un-invented in the vacuum of the Midwest. Pere Ubu's "Final Solution" has always been in my top 10 rock songs ever since I heard it one drunken afternoon when a friend dropped the tape in my jambox. It captures the creepiness of being a dude to well, that restless wolf that wants to do unspeakable things, equating sexual release to the Holocaust. So powerful. Pere Ubu is a weird little band, named after a weird little play about tyrants and shit and perversity of power, with Dave Thomas piloting this icebreaker through punk, punk-funk, lite-rock and possibly, back to the dirty garage what birthed it.
Why I Hate Women is the band's 20th album, a fact you might be surprised by since most of their mid-career work was buried under a succession of bad label deals. Cringy title for a comeback, yes. I suspect Dave Thomas does not actually hate women, citing that this is the "novel Jim Thompson never wrote" but here he shows that jittery discomfort with the cosmos that colored much of their early work. The opening track "Two Girls (One Bar)" pits his voice, twisted into some sort of primitive trumpet, against some evil, glitchy electronics and bar guitars and a drumkit beaten to pieces with teen abandon. "Babylonian Warehouses" descends into the more familiar territory of the fucked croon-dirges that made up Dub Housing, what I thought to be my favorite Pere Ubu record until I heard this one.
Dave Thomas has put on many personas over the years, but here he possesses the charm of a stalker, droning his longings into a handheld recorder as her watches you through binoculars. "Blue Velvet" possesses much of reverbed noir of the movie that presumably inspired it, guitars moving through the room like clouds of opium smoke, as the lizard-trill keyboards and brushed drums paint a lurid picture of psychic decay. God, it is so creepy, I love it! "Carolee" bears some resemblance to the reformed Rocket From The Tombs, the other legendary band Thomas initiated back in the ooze with Peter Laughner. Following this is the twang of "Flames over Nebraska" rambunctious like if a cracked party clown hijacked the Cramps. Dave Thomas has one of the weirdest voices in rock, an alternately honking and mumbly thing, but on this song, he plays it like a horn section, creating an eerie demonic undercurrent for the garage rhythm section and the Merlin game-on-bathtub-crank keys.
So with all this leading up to it, I'm almost afraid to listen to "Love Song" wondering if he's going to reveal where he's buried the bodies, but the Ron Asheton style riff at the forefront tells me to go ahead and get my shovel. I've always thought Pere Ubu to be cool, to be arty, to be groundbreaking but never did I think they'd be dangerous, and this is danger music - "My eyes are growing tentacles for to grab you." The guitars here are epic in stature, lethal enough to feel dirty listening to it. "Mona" falls into the classic spazz-rock territory of Dub Housing with nervous alacrity and amphetamine detail, serving as a bridge to one of the record's more demented moments, a short chanted abstraction of "My Boyfriend's Back."
"Stolen Cadillac" is a brilliant piece of noir song-theatre, with Thomas' sprechesgang floating in the ether of the throbbing guitar lines and zombie percussion, all being overtaken by locusts. "Synth Farm" is another, where sax and garbage can drums backdrop the narrator's descent into madness. The only thing that saves me from alife of gisly crime after listening to this record is the space-age cow-punk rand-McNally travelogue weirdness of "Texas Overture" that closes this record out. Sounding more like what I call Pere ubu's "Talking Heads" period of the albums Cloudland and Worlds in Collision, it seems out of place. Thomas literally orders everything off a BBQ menu at one point in the song which would seem pretty weird on its own had we not come though the dark of night to get here, but I guess I should be glad for the closing credits, letting me blink a minute and get some of the things I've seen out of my head.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com