Pere Ubu - Drive, He Said 1994-2002 album review

20 years in, and Pere Ubu were still kings of the weird frontier

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By the time Pere Ubu released the first of the records on this four-disc box set (the albums Raygun Suitcase, Pennsylvania and St Arkansas, plus Back Roads, a disc of extras), they were already one of the underground’s most influential bands, having formed in 1975 and inspired everyone from Pixies to Julian Cope. And yet, two decades into their existence, they were still creating great works of abstract art, pushing the limits of rock’n’roll to twist the form into avant-garde explorations of the darkest recesses of the human mind.

Yes, the basis is garage rock, but melted, morphed and reconstituted to create impressionist and surrealist masterpieces. Pennsylvania, particularly, remains an endless source of fascination, with its stormy guitars and kingpin David Thomas (the only constant member) spilling his brains onto his audio canvas to create patterns endlessly open to interpretation.

If this is the true sound of the underground, hand us a shovel: we’re going in.