Record Review - 2 September 25 2002

Some CD covers just nail it — and the interstate signs on Pere Ubu's St. Arkansas are a perfect example. The iconography is a perfect reflection of the album's driving avant-garage and bumpy Midwestern art-punk as harrowing as any bleak Ozark back road.

Recording as Pere Ubu for 27 years, singer David Thomas and guitarist Tom Herman have been working with the band's current incarnation since 1995. On St. Arkansas, the group's 12th studio album, skanky, snaking bass provides the headlights for the lurch and whistle of sputtering electronics and the drums' claustrophobic clang. Lyrical angularities form the fractured glass carpet over which the disjointed rhythms hop. And as always, there's Herman's jagged riffs and Thomas' careening vocals.

St. Arkansas slinks a touch more than its spasms, often coming close to approximating the searing steam of Pere Ubu's earlier work. From the buzzing barrage of "Lisbon" and the wailing "The Fevered Dream of Hernando DeSoto," to the dusty "Steve" and dusky eight-minute dirge, "Dark," the signs on the cover prove prophetic. Pere Ubu may be traveling the familiar post-punk roads they helped pave as early as 1975 — but they're always headed somewhere.

Pere Ubu plays the Echo Lounge Fri., Sept. 27.??