“Lady From Shanghai” another failed revolution
Pere Ubu and lead singer David Thomas try to "smash the homogeny of dance," but end up with a hit-and-miss experiment.
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Back in the early nineties, I had an opportunity to sit with David Thomas for a very long time and listen to him tell me, first hand, the history of Pere Ubu and his philosophies on art, culture, and just about everything else. He was a fascinating individual, as self-aware as he was pretentious. In the beginning, back in 1975, he told me that Pere Ubu was out to change the world, to facilitate revolution. By the time we met in 1993, he admitted that the revolution failed.
Now, 20 years later, Pere Ubu has given us The Lady From Shanghai
with the stated intent of smashing the homogeny of dance. Thomas has a point; the vast majority of current popular dance music is as dull as f**k. But with an audience primarily made up of people with only a sliver of Thomas’ sizable frame of reference, there is no possible way that they could notice or care, and Pere Ubu haven’t done much here on “Shanghai” to win any new hearts and minds. The record has a consistency that would seem impossible to achieve, given the rules the band imposed upon itself (no rehearsals, each member playing their parts in isolation from each other, a musical version of the “Chinese Whispers parlor game) but beyond funky tracks like “Mandy” and the sticky hooks of “Lampshade Man”, The Lady From Shanghai
doesn’t really give anyone all that much to dance about no matter what the size of their frame of reference.