Review Summary: c----o-mpre-----sso-------r
Over warped instruments, split into elementals and then strung back together with little more than crazy glue, bad intentions and David Thomas’ unkeyed squeals, The Fabulous Sequel ushered in Pere Ubu’s third LP New Picnic Time, a short distorted collection of garbled punk from some dim cobwebbed corner of the genre’s cellar. The opener wobbles between funk and Buddy Holly uplift pushed through a meat mincer, before sloping downwards into noisy havoc that brings to mind free form jazz. From there, New Picnic Time marches on zagging legs through ten takes, the spirit of Captain Beefheart, Ornette Coleman and LaMonte Young caked into their veins.
There’s a fly in the ointment! Thomas declares over the uneasy dirge of A Small Dark Cloud, whose spare spiny arrangement sounds like it’s about to buckle under the harsh effects if not for intermittent sprinkles of oddly whimsical piano. Small Was Fast’s Grand Ole Opry baroque vocal deflections are subverted by proggy organs and a persistent low buzz. So it goes. Somewhere, halfway through the calamity of One Less Worry, it becomes obvious, despite the band’s profound proclivities towards clownish freakouts, just how violent and tense New Picnic Time actually is. There isn’t a single moment here that feels easy or loose or randomly formed. Yet for all that busy architecture, New Picnic Time doesn’t sound overwrought or emptily artful either (arguably the last time then band would be able to sustain that notion through an entire album). In New Picnic Time, Ubu construct effortless paranoiac menace. By the time closer Kingdom Come finally offers a little ‘traditional’ beauty, albeit still sifted through an erratic, alcoholic lens, you feel drained from all that collated madness.
There’s an intoxicating freeness to this time in the band’s run, and New Picnic Time in particular feels like a moment when they were utterly untethered from the reality of either the music industry or their environmental constraints, cutting albums that both isolated them from their peers, and made them so sought after for collaborations and cameos. They were bold and cooly aloof, casually pushing punk into more audacious places and gin-soaked alleys where only the brainsick graze.