Years Active: 41.
Provenance: Cleveland, Ohio.
Essential Albums: The Modern Dance, Dub Housing, The Art of Walking, Datapanik in the Year Zero boxed set.
Essential Songs: "Heart of Darkness," "Final Solution," "30 Seconds Over Tokyo," "Cloud 149," "Non-Alignment Pact," "Caligari's Mirror," "Misery Goats," "Arabia."
Influenced By: Black Sabbath, Captain Beefheart, Roxy Music, Alfred Jarry's 1896 play Ubu Roi.
Influence On: Mission of Burma, Pixies, Pavement, Primus, Ween.
Precautions: Cantankerous frontman David Thomas doesn't suffer fools gladly. Some of Pere Ubu's post-1980s albums are rather spotty; critic Robert Christgau even gave three of them the dreaded "bomb" grade.
Why You Should Give a Fuck: Before punk exploded, Pere Ubu were brewing something much stranger in the industrial wastelands of Cleveland, drawing inspiration from innovators and iconoclasts like the Velvet Underground and Captain Beefheart, without slavishly imitating them. The group's early recordings—bolstered by Allen Ravenstine's Eraserhead-eerie synth emanations—encompass some of the most unnerving and powerful expressions of estrangement and exhilaration in rock history. A poet of the ungainly and unconventional, singer David Thomas uses his hysteria-filled voice as a rickety vehicle for his unhinged lyrics. He and Pere Ubu elevated rock to the status of art, but they didn't relinquish its primal power. Rather, these Cleveland weirdos often infused rock with an oblong propulsion while filtering a rust-belt dub/musique-concrète into songs that alternately could topple towers or tickle funny bones. Pere Ubu may not have been the fathers of Dada rock, but they furthered its evolution, especially in their furious first decade of existence.