Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Pere Ubu
Datapanik In The Year Zero

Released 1978 on Radar
Reviewed by a23, 30/05/2000ce

This mini-album comprised 5 of the 6 tracks that made up Pere Ubu's first three singles, (omitting "Final Solution" for reasons of early "political correctness"?) and was released in April 78 as part of the then up-and-coming "Ohio scene" that included Devo and other bands that have not lingered in the memory as long. I'd heard "30 seconds over Tokyo" on the John Peel Show, but the original singles were hard to come by, and this disc filled the gap. It contains, for me, the essence of Ubu's whole meaning and purpose, each track a gem, unlike the interesting but flawed "Modern Dance" LP. Ubu became less challenging with each album release after this, and it's maybe no surprise that the first three, and best, tracks are those penned under the influence of sadly deceased founder Peter Laughner - by all accounts a "crazed diamond".
The collection begins with Heart of Darkness, preceding "Apocalypse Now's" voyage into the inner maelstrom. The bass line is meaty, pulsing, with a sound that Joy Division would later make their own. Over a hypnotic drumbeat, the vocals are split and phased, comin' at you from each speaker in a double attack. Confusion and desolation - "I don't see anythin' that I want". There's a majestic guitar chorus, then the vocals become increasingly husky and tremulous, Thomas's voice sounding stoned as he intones, over and over, "lookin' into……lookin' into…..lookin' into the heart of darkness", rising to a crescendo of orgasmic proportions.
Next up is their first single A-side " 30 seconds over Tokyo", (named after a WW2 B-Movie about the first US attack on Japan - starring Robert Mitchum by coincidence). If they'd split up immediately after recording this, you couldn't have complained; they would still have made a major musical contribution. Skeletal, staccato guitar notes lead into a discordant, cymbal-clashing wave of foreboding, then that baseline begins, sinking its hooks deep in your brain, time and again returning the song to the doomed path towards an all too well known destination…"No place to run, no place to hide, no turnin' back on a suicide ride". You're going there, you're trapped, there's no other way out. As the track progresses, the addition of background industrial noise, feedback, fuzz and increasingly distorted vocals add to the feeling of claustrophobic nightmare, with the final moments cut with panicking, frenetic cockpit intercom-style messages until the sudden ending. All hope is lost…

The flip side contains three shorter, generally lighter tunes. Wonderful jitterbug synth chords and boiing-ing guitar notes herald in Cloud 149 - a song about devotion and adoration… "Here she comes..feels like Heaven", with an irresistible dancing beat fit for a Barn Dance of the oddest Ohio freaks, delicate guitar weaving in and out behind the vocals. Untitled is an early version of "Modern Dance"; Thomas's falsetto vocals braying, grating over the guitars, interspersed with waves of funky, phased out, laid back guitar mixed with what sounds like ambient recordings of passengers at a railway station. The final track is the devine Heaven - opening with slide guitar and maraccas reminiscent of Mink Deville on way too much acid, before a kind of Latin/Reggae rhythm forces itself upon you. The vocals are intermittently whispered, again devotional "It feels like…….Heaven" with sweet backing vocals adding to that lovin' feeling, and one of the most insanely catchy two guitar hooks ever…

All the tracks were released on a CD "Terminal Tower" on Cooking Vinyl in 1998CE along with the missing Final Solution and a few later tracks. Check it out!!

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