The Modern Dance (1978), by Cleveland post-punk band Pere Ubu, is one of the New Wave and Industrial Rock masterpieces and one of the landmarks in modern music. The band’s name comes from the famous play Ubu Roi (1898), by French playwright Alfred Jarry, and, like this work, the album is a fierce and daring criticism towards the “modern” world and its “values”. A world of slaves that according to Pere Ubu is heading for the end with a dance step, into a breezy atmosphere that covers up a dark pit. The band’s genius, led by vocalist David Thomas, lays into the amazing description of the Apocalypse, using abrasive guitars and mechanical hisses which disfigure songs and turn them into little surrealist pearls. Thomas’ voice chases, anticipates and mixes with the sounds of horn and sax into a crescendo of tricks (the noises of a factory, the workers’ clapping) and “musical rarefaction” (the last track is a surreal suite made of minimalist guitar chords, noises of scattered glass, and the lament of the main character, an alien who finds home but doesn’t recognise it anymore). During the album, the Apocalypse becomes more and more individual, from the first tracks, filled with voices, ghosts, workers and cheering crowds, to the last ones, made of Thomas’ solitude, paranoia and alienation: a journey from the outer universe to the “inner-space”, the place belonging to human psyche.
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