Pere Ubu is an experimental rock music group formed in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1975. Despite many long-term band members, singer David Thomas is the only constant. The group is named after Père Ubu (“father Ubu”), the protagonist of Ubu Roi (“Ubu, the King”), a play by French writer Alfred Jarry.
While Pere Ubu have never been widely popular—usually categorized as “underground rock”—they have a devoted following and are an influential and critically acclaimed band.
Critical opinions of Pere Ubu include, “the most original and important of the new wave bands”, “the world’s only expressionist Rock ‘n’ Roll band”, and “Pere Ubu will be looked back on as the most important group to have come out of America in the last decade and a half. Either that or they will be entirely forgotten”.
Pere Ubu have compiled a list of guidelines for touring, live performances and the like: “Lighting should be theatrical rather than rockist. We are interested in atmosphere, mood, drama, energy, subtlety, imagination—not rock cliché.” The Danish Broadcasting Corporation is one of the few organizations they trust to record live performances, “solely on the basis of the King of Denmark’s defense of the Jews in WWII”.
To define their music, Pere Ubu coined the term avant-garage to reflect interest in both experimental avant-garde music (especially Musique concrète) and raw, direct blues-influenced garage rock. Thomas has stated the term is “a joke invented to have something to give journalists when they yelp for a neat sound bite or pigeonhole”.
- “Pere Ubu is not now nor has it ever been a viable commercial venture. We won’t sleep on floors, we won’t tour endlessly and we’re embarrassed by self-promotion. Add to that a laissez-faire attitude to the mechanics of career advancement and a demanding artistic agenda and you’ve got a recipe for real failure. That has been our one significant success to this date: we are the longest-lasting, most disastrous commercial outfit to ever appear in rock ‘n’ roll. No one can come close to matching our loss to longevity ratio.” – David Thomas
- “Rock music is mostly about moving big black boxes from one side of town to the other in the back of your car.”
I Hear They Smoke The Barbecuehttp://djallyn.org/media/pere-ubu-i-hear-they-smoke-the-bbq.flv
I lie awake.
I was waiting for the clouds to break.
No doubt you’ve heard about the door in through the Northern Pole.
It’s hard to believe! People living underneath.
I hear they live on fruit and air. I hear they love ole Yogi Bear.
I hear they’re good at parking cars. I hear they want to be like we are.
They’ll move next door.
They’ll be a part of the neighborhood.
But as sad as we are the company must love the misery.
Now we’re on the darkside of forever I fear them hard times are beginning for real.
I hear their sky is pink all day. I hear they love ole Yogi Bear.
I hear they sneak around at night. I hear they want to be like we are.
We stay up late. We’re waiting for the clouds to break.
Through the barbecue smoke. Men from Mars. Man! It’s no joke.
We’re not alone. And eager eyes watch the sky.
My new buddies and me, we say, Misery must love company.
Now we’re on the darkside of forever I hear them hard times are beginning for real.
I lie awake. Waiting for the clouds to beak.
I lie awake. Waiting for the clouds to break.
I lie awake.
Waiting for the clouds to beak.
- Audio from the 1991 album, Worlds in Collision: