THE SPITZ, 10th JULY 2004

In 1975, before punk, an obscure group from Cleveland, America, were making the templates out of which some of the smartest punk sounds of the next ten years would be built. This bunch of troublemakers were 'Rocket From the Tombs'. While they survived only a matter of months, out of their ashes would rise possibly *the* finest US punk group, Pere Ubu (oh, and another, The Dead Boys, who were dreadful in a 'look at me i'm so stoopid i may hurt myself' sort of way.) Ubu were
idols to the punk smart set, combining art and their peculiar world view with a back-to-basics sound grounded in The Stooges, MC5 and The Velvet
Underground (oh, and T Rex and Roxy Music too). Songs like '30 Seconds Over Tokyo' (telling the story the dropping of the atomic bomb,) 'Final
Solution', 'Non-Alignment Pact' and the magnificent 'Heart of Darkness' were seeped in paranoia and a sense of impending doom. Over time,
though, singer and lyricist David Thomas, aka Crocus Behemouth, retuned to sing of the endless mystery of everyday life - of love, friends,
boredom and mystery, of memories and 'the art of walking'.

Nearly thirty years on and Ubu are now only an occasional group. These days Thomas spends more of his energy on the smaller setup that he's
formed with Andy Diagram and Keith Molina, the 'Two Pale Boys'. From a cut-down palette of sound - guitar, heavily treated trumpet and Thomas's
accordian and musette, the latter clearly filched from Captain Beefheart - the Pale Boys nevertheless are capable of raising something of a
storm. Their subject matter is built very much on Thomas's world view. Like Dada of old he's fascinated with the everyday - just as the dadaists made pictures from bus tickets and product labels, he weaves songs from his observations of slight events, images caught from the corner of the eye, as often as not singing the magic of abandoned places and forgotten times. For an iconoclast he's peculiarly fond of raising a
sense of nortalgia. His accordian is used mostly to create a sense of wearied, loping persistence, a busted metronome of a rhythm, that marks
the time of his wandering thought.

Tonight there are technical problems that lead to on-stage tantrums and loud and angry denunciations of the sound engineer for his 'totally
unprofessional' drunkeness. The group persevere and, after some false starts and bad tempered instructions, the sound is more than serviceable, to my ears at least. Thomas doesn't seem much happier but declares 'the show must go on'. The tracks tonight are taken mostly from the new album, '18 Monkeys on a Dead Man's Chest', which I hadn't heard before and so I don't recognise much. It doesn't matter - the group hit a tone that sits somewhere between nostalgia and an obvious
sense of dread, and they sustain it throughout. Thomas wails, moans, whispers his songs of regret and tells his tall tales. The sound pumps,
lurches and now and again shatters into fragments of swirling electronica that carries all along before it.

For decades now Thomas has kept up his singular voice (singular despite patent influences from Beefheart, folk, the ringmaster, storyteller and
carney man), a voice that goes it's own way outside of the ever decreasing circle of rock fashion. His presence seems a thing in itself, existing quite independently of the world around it, secure in it's sense of it's own curmudgeonly integrity. I've seen these guys play more times than I can remember and, while the performances can be uneven, they're always magic because they do something so rare. Thirty years after Rocket From The Tombs, David Thomas's voice is as weird and wonderful as it ever was, and in his new group he has found a wonderful medium for channelling it.

Andy Wilson