Pere Ubu – 30 Seconds Over Tokyo / Heart Of Darkness (1975)

“You’re in a hole-in-the-wall record shop rooting around in a singles bin and you find a release by Pere Ubu (Pere Ubu!) called ’30 Seconds Over Tokyo.’ That’s the hook, for starters: you don’t know why an underground Cleveland band in 1975 would pick up this shard of World War II history, and you’re ready for a cool juxtaposition or non sequitur, whatever it is. You know it ain’t going to be no Ballad of Jimmy Doolittle (captain of the famous raid). What’s intriguing, as it turns out, is that it kind of is a ballad of Jimmy Doolittle. The words take you through the raid from a slightly delirious pilot’s perspective, and before it’s over the synthesizer even mimics the drone of the B-25 engines.

The sun a hot circle on a canopy
The ’25 a racing blot on a bright green sea
Ahead the dim blur of an alien land
Time to give ourselves to strange gods’ hands

And the music style in the verse is Black Sabbath-y—not predictable, in this context, but not what you’d call provocative either. Still, you are made to puzzle over what it all means because of the borderline insanity of singer David Thomas’s delivery and the disturbing electronic commentary of Allen Ravenstine. The band is fulfilling its promise to be EXPERIMENTAL. You and the band are collaborating to see what happens when you mix ingredients that don’t come together naturally. The music as you’re now experiencing it is that event. That’s the principal hook. More than anything, it’s the attitude: everyone here is ready to try something! A great experimental band like Pere Ubu also creates replayable hooks inside the track where you’re vividly aware of the mad scientists at work and impressed by their results. I find the unleashing of sounds as we come out of the second verse stanza (the one quoted above) really lovely. …”
Hooks (Audio)
Independent: Big daddy of the avant-garde
Genius (Audio)
YouTube: 30 Seconds Over Tokyo, Heart Of Darkness


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