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4.8 out of 5 stars
The Modern Dance
Format: Audio CD|Change
Price:£14.42+ £1.26 shipping

TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 January 2013
My abiding memory of Pere Ubu will always be seeing them take to the stage at London's Roundhouse in 1978 (as support to Graham Parker and The Rumour) looking more like a hotchpotch of New York (I guess that should be Cleveland, Ohio) winos than a 'rock' band, and then to be even more astonished as Allen Ravenstine proceeded to set up his 'instruments' (what appeared to be a collection of prehistoric synthesisers) on something resembling a school desk! Of course, at that time I, like 95% (or so) of the crowd, were none the wiser to the exhortations of the select few who were encouraging the band to play the song (and probably their ultimate creative masterpiece) Final Solution (which they never did).

Listening now, 35 years on (and having only just got round to replacing my vinyl version of The Modern Dance with the CD version), I'm equally amazed at how fresh, inspiring and, yes, unique the 'record' still sounds. How can it (or maybe why need it) be categorised (avant-garde punk, maybe) and where did it come from? Whatever, it is clear to me that this band sowed their seeds of influence widely (knowingly or otherwise) - Joy Division and The Pixies immediately spring to mind. Song-wise, the album is made up of a mix of proto-punk (but more sophisticated than one chord) wonders, some sublime (ethereal even) ballads and just some downright weird songs, all peppered with David Thomas' idiosyncratically poetic, witty and broadly romantic lyrics. Each of Nonalignment Pact, Street Waves and Life Stinks are pretty much straight-ahead punk gems (with Tony Maimone's bass and Scott Krauss' drums to the fore), Modern Dance, Chinese Radiation and Over My Head are ballads (albeit uniquely Pere Ubu-style ballads) featuring some characteristically tender vocals by David Thomas, whilst Laughing, Real World and Sentimental Journey defy any conventional musical style or genre. On the other hand, the album's closer (and my favourite track) Humor Me mixes all of the aforementioned styles, and is simply a sub-three minute classic.

But what pervades the entire album (and sets it apart from almost any other), of course, is the band's unique approach to rhythm and noise accompaniment. Not only are the band's conventional instruments used to set up some brilliantly vibrant and infectious (at times, reggae and/or jazz-like) rhythms, but Ravenstine's synthesisers and tapes are used to create sounds as diverse as steam whistles, screeching cats, wind tunnels, smashing bottles and various beeps and blips, thereby creating a unique percussive soundscape. On first hearing The Modern Dance it would be quite easy to be put off by the album's level of dissonance - however, repeated listens reveal the work's hidden depths of rhythm, dynamics and melody.

I would go as far as to describe The Modern Dance as a seminal album of its era, and one that is essential to any music collection.
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on 20 February 2018
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 23 October 2011
Until recently I had never heard any Pere Ubu music, though I remember reading an NME interview with the lead singer, thirty years ago, and thinking he sounded like an interesting chap. So critically lauded, alternative, and post punk, they languished on my radar.

As someone who lived through the musical wasteland that was the seventies, punk has earned my eternal respect and gratitude. Lately I have been tracking down some of those bands that I am more familiar with through NME articles than through their music.

This album, Modern Dance, is a brisk and functional piece of post punk. If you are open to aggressively mid tempo music with plentiful yelps and insane shouting then you will love this. It is a sort of reggae version of Can. Although the tracks all hang together, there is enough variety to keep it engaging.

Writing about music is like using modern dance to interpret architecture, frequently pointless. Enough to say, I never heard this first time around, but it still sounds fresh and engaging now. Just listen to the sample from Non-Alignment Pact, like that, love the album. Finally I am glad that the world includes the track Sentimental Journey, but I never want to hear it again, it reaches a whole new plane of hard to listen to! It is not even clear how it relates to the Lawrence Sterne story it takes its name from.
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on 25 April 2000
I first heard this album in 1988 and it instantly became a favourite. David Thomas has a haunting sweet voice which sounds like noise to those who wont appreciate it. I have listened to all the follow up albums and nothing is as compact as this collection. The closest any band has come to being as orginal as this is the Pixies Surfer Rosa. Pere Ubu's Modern dance stands alone.
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on 11 April 2000
I first heard this album in 1977-78 after buying it completely on impulse. Never heard of the group but thought the cover looked great. Have never regreted the purchase - a classic album full of a great songs.
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on 21 February 2004
I have the vinyl - was delighted to see this on CD. If you've ever wondered where Trent (NiN) gets ideas and inspiration - this must be a part of it. Music that howls, scowls, prowls - a parent to countless wild orphans.
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on 24 November 2009
hi thank you very much .
its a great album and you got it to me on time .
thank you again very very much i cant stop playing it.
dan x
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on 19 March 2005
People continually mention Captain Beefheart in relation to this album which pisses me off because there's nothing more likely to turn someone off than the mention of Beefheart and his self-consciously cooky cronies. This is closer in spirit to Television, Patti Smith and even Devo though without, respectively, the noodly guitar, angsty poetry or mongoloid fixation. Yeah, it's a bit leftfield but these are still songs. It's not Schoenberg. David Thomas has the same fat-boy intensity as Black Francis but Pixies' big innovation was big fat chords to match. This is all more or less at the same hysterical pitch. Works for me. Especially on the opening, closing and title tracks, all of which deploy an unsettling drone/whine instead of anything so mundane and bourgois as a rhythm. There's a fair bit of squawking horns going on aswell which, I guess, is what prompts the Beefheart comparisons but it's done in an entirely different attitude and has nothing at all to do do with tedious pseudo-blues narcissistic virtuosity. Although "Sentimental Journey" is rubbish, in fairness. Those little streams you've been listening to to get some sort of handle on this do it absolutely no justice at all. Disregard them and buy it.
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on 10 June 2015
The fantastic, amazing, weirdo and powerful music of the great Pere Ubu!
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