Even as their seminal debut LP The Modern Dance prepares to celebrate its thirty-fifth anniversary, legendary Ohio post-punk future-shapers Pere Ubu show little inclination to trade off past glories. Their first for the Fire imprint (also currently home to fellow post-punk notables Mission Of Burma and Guided By Voices), Lady From Shanghai is Ubu’s 14th studio LP and their first touting all-new material since 2006’s Why I Hate Women.
It can’t ever realistically hold a candle to The Modern Dance or its seismic follow-up Dub Housing, but it regularly flirts with inspiration. Mandy’s compelling, frautrock-ish drone finds David Thomas swapping his patented Oliver Hardy-style yelping for a truly eerie drawl, while the cyclical stomp of Lampshade Man and nightmarish 414 Seconds are typically dark, yet tasty sonic portions sliced from Ubu’s disorienting art-pop pie.
It’s some way south of perfect, though. Former guitarist Tom Herman’s incisive presence is often sorely missed, while potentially electrifying tracks such as And Then Nothing Happened and the electronica-tinged Free White frustratingly dribble away in the name of bloody-minded experimentation. Overall, though, Lady From Shanghai is persuasive enough to suggest that Pere Ubu have no need to lock themselves in their self-styled avant-garage and leave the motor running just yet.