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Pere Ubu: Carnival Of Souls

Part Van der Graaf, part graphic novel...

Music that doesn’t fit, telling stories about people who don’t fit,” says defiantly durable frontman David Thomas of the 18th studio album from his experimental outfit of almost four decades.

When Pere Ubu first emerged, the Cleveland-formed agitators described themselves, tongue-in-cheek, as “avant-garage”, and were associated with punk by a bewildered media. Yet time has clarified that their ignoring of boundaries is zealously progressive, and this genre-subverting concept album – about a guy who jumps naked into the river and watches the moon from underwater for as long as he can hold his breath – is challenging, complex and thrillingly unpredictable. Riffs start then stutter; guitars and clarinets sidewind into shape-shifting carousel rides. Thomas channels Peter Hammill, Captain Beefheart, Tom Waits and even Malcolm McLaren as he follows his muse from poetry to protestation. It all gels into a rich, rewarding trip downstream, with references to jazz, Dr. Faustus and noir movies. If that sounds indulgent, it isn’t: every twist adds to the hypnotic whole. If you haven’t heard Pere Ubu for a while, strip off any reservations and dive into this.

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.