Pere Ubu - Dub Housing (1978), 8/10

Still funky and danceable, but Dub Housing is more explicit of a sound experiment than its well-known predecessor The Modern Dance. The catchy songs like the opener “Navvy” and the title track are equally successful as the abstract meanderings of a song like “Thriller!” which is a rare phenomenon in experimental rock music. Usually, one or the other wins out, but here Pere Ubu are firing on all cylinders both in the abstruse and the controlled. David Thomas is as effective yet deranged as ever in his vocal performances, backed by a foundation of equally psychotic instrumental ventures. You need to approach the album with some level of affinity for dissonance or perhaps what is more accurately described as complexity, as there is certainly plenty, but much of its tension in sound is oddly gratifying despite its bitter appearance, even without the payouts that are traditionally vital to its effectiveness. When considering its fluidity, it sounds like the group held onto the aesthetic of The Modern Dance for its first few tracks before finally letting go of inhibition completely to explore the nuances they flirted with in its melodic recesses, with more focus and intent on fully realizing the sound's potential. Some of these songs are more interesting than others but there is not an unsuccessful one among them, leading to a surprisingly consistent album considering its offbeat ambitions. While I can usually buy into a full-blown embracing of weirdness and do in fact accept this as a wholly successful and even fantastic project, this is simply not as consistently noteworthy in energy as their more straightforward, although still unorthodox, approach to songwriting. That is a very high bar, even an unfair one for comparison, because Dub Housing is its own wonderful mess of ideas and themes that carry their weight and offer a supremely convincing invention. Rivals their best just with its own uniquely bohemian demeanor.