George Starostin's Reviews



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Mike DeFabio <> (18.05.2001)

I like this album a lot, but it's the only album of theirs I've heard that I like very much. The lead singer has a kooky voice (he wails and warbles a lot, and sounds like a cartoon character a lot of the time) and the keyboard player plays all kinds of funny videogame noises, and the guitar and bass players come up with tons of catchy little arty punky weirdo riffs. I, for one, even enjoy "Sentimental Journey." I like "Revolution 9," too, and if you don't like either of those, then STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM MY ALBUMS, because you'll hate them. But this is no place to shamelessly plug my cheap homemade product. This is where I'm supposed to be giving The Modern Dance a happy twelve rating.

Oliver Kneale <> (10.06.2001)

I'm surprised you didn't mention "Street Waves". I think that's the most conventional, immediately pleasing hard rockin' song on the album. It's pretty great.

Pere Ubu are one of my favorite bands. They're from Cleveland, Ohio which has long had one of the most distinctive rock scenes in all of the US. Ohio rock from the 70's on up to the 90's has a fanatical following all over the world. It's a bit like Texas in that way, where there seems to be an unusually high concentration of weirdos and renegades there.

Modern Dance is probably their 70's peak in terms of pure, halfway accessible rock. This music so vividly conjures up a time and a place. I can hear decaying industrial Cleveland in this music, just as easily as I can hear The Village Green on the Kinks album or hear mid-60's Angry Young Mod London on an early Who album.

Since you like some of the more rockin' stuff on this record, the Ubu album you'd probably most appreciate would be Terminal Tower. It's a collection of their early non-album singles, most of them orbiting the Modern Dance era. So it's not like a 'Best of' compilation. It works as an album and it's the only place you can easily get that material.

If you think the rockers on Modern Dance are hot stuff, I think they're topped on Terminal Tower. It's essential.

Auberon Suger <> (11.06.2001)

The first record (aside from the legendary singles "Final Solution", "30 Days Over Tokyo", etc.) by Pere Ubu is one of the greatest of the late 1970s and it innovated a new hybrid of sound as Mr. Starostin described so well. I've been reading Pere Ubu's website and some interviews with their singer David Thomas and his theories on Rock & Roll are highly recommended especially to the more knowledgeable members and reviewers on this site. I think we have to put this album into context of 1978 where Rod Stewart and Fleetwood Mac were on top of the charts and even most rock critics thought they were great. Ubu is a band from the industrial north of America and a rust-belt, no-glamour city of Cleveland and their music is a sonic portrait of that landscape with all of its rough edges showing. It's a strange mixture of humor and pathos and I disagree that the song "Humor Me" is forgettable, but there are a few clunkers on this disc. Still, I think a 13 rating is deserved. There is some true artistry here and Pere Ubu would go on to produce a masterpiece with their next album Dub Housing. I hope that and their others will be reviewed here.

For myself, the first 2 Ubu albums and Wire's Pink Flag were the last gasp of rock & roll in the 1970s - innovative and groundbreaking efforts that many later imitated but none surpassed. In one of Thomas' interviews he says that Pere Ubu is simply "rock music" and I would agree that those guys brought together art-rock and punk -- it's actually the final development of progressive rock (Chris Cutler plays on later Ubu releases) and just about the only intelligent music that was created for a long while (I don't think there is much of anything now, but we discussed that already in George's thesis on the death of rock & roll). I'd add Roxy Music's For Your Pleasure as another late seventies innovative record to rank with the others.

I'll put in a plug for reviews of Wire's output since they may have been even more influential than the Sex Pistols in what became the future of rock music.

<> (01.07.2001)

You seem to believe that Peter Laughner played on the Modern Dance. He played on their first two singles ('30 Seconds...'/'Heart of Darkness', 'Final Solution'/'Cloud 149') before being booted out for showing a disturbing tendency toward drug dementia. The band took a resolutely different outlook after his ouster.

As for Peter, he followed the straightest trajectory to Eternity. In June of '77 he joined the toppled off this plane. Bassist Tony Maimone I believe called Modern Dance "Peter's record," as his spectre looms large over it.

david saunders <> (26.02.2006)

in regards to the modern dance... are you sure it was 78? i thought it was 68? ...oh well, i am probably wrong there, but it doesnt matter as it still sounds more modern than anything in 2006 that I've heard yet. I first heard it when i was 15 and i was hooked

Peter Laughner wrote 'Life Stinks'... I was told, not sure if its true, that David Thomas completely changed the direction of this recording/songwriting period after hearing of Peter's death, that it was to sound like 'the sound of anger' and a personal reflection on the grief he felt of Peter's death.

On a personal note I've always found it the one album to put on when you feel like killing someone/yourself that truly sounds like the anger you feel. Its a very powerful album. Nothing like heavy metal or death metal etc. which sounds neither scary or angry or powerful. It is a good way to clear your violence. ahem.

...If you like this music you should go find some 'Tripod Jimmie' ... the guitarist on the Modern Dance, Tom Herman, Put 2 albums out under this moniker before no-one took notice and he went back to mending hospital beds. Rock music was never fair.... That a genius like that is forgotten whilst so many forgettable 'acts' enjoy a life of luxury, true artists are forgotten and living in jobs that they dont deserve because they spent all their 'best years' making this art that makes life worthwhile. I read the name Pere Ubu so often in the music press and yet they are forgotten while todays 'innovators' get rich on their lessons. A tragedy.

P.S. I played in a band once. When we played Cleveland, Ohio. we played a Tripod Jimmie cover and i said how honored we were to be playing in Pere Ubu's birthplace. This was to a crowd of 800 'alt. rock' fans (we were supporting Pavement).

No-one seemed to know who i was talking about, and they certainly didn't know the song we played. I cried myself to sleep that night. 13.5


dave hoare <> (26.05.2003)

uh yeah this one is slightly overrated, its very fun... pere ubu had toured with their 'heirs' the Pixies & the two bands borrowed a lot from each other. thomas rediscovered his 'classic' vocal style hear which makes for some incredibly catchy songs, but the album is full of a lot of generic chugging. if it was shorter it would be one of their better releases. as with all later Ubu albums, the songs that recapture the ultra-catchy avante-rock of Dub Housing are great, the songs that try for modern dance-style garage are pretty cool... & the rest is either interesting or annoying. i dont like it anywhere near as much as pennsylvania or st aksansas.


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