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Baker's Dozen

Constant Companions: Matt Johnson's Favourite Albums
Jeremy Allen , October 27th, 2021 07:31

From a teenage encounter with Pere Ubu in a Wardour Street club, to the comforting effect of classic reggae and his love of Marc Bolan, The The’s Matt Johnson takes Jeremy Allen through his thirteen favourite records


Pere Ubu – The Modern Dance

I could have chosen any one of a couple of hundred albums from this period, but I chose Pere Ubu because I saw them at an old club in Wardour Street called The Marquee, which was literally right next door to this studio I worked in from 15. I used to go next door all the time to watch bands, and my brother and I found out about this band from Cleveland called Pere Ubu that was coming to town again - it was a lot about word of mouth in those days. And I was just so impressed seeing them live. At this time, I was going to so many gigs. This one really stood out, and the singer was a chap called David Thomas who used to go by the great stage name of Crocus Behemoth. And he was this big guy with this quivering vibrato and quite a high-pitched voice. And I just remember him standing on stage, this very impressive bloke, and he had these big chunks of metal that he would smash together in front of the microphone for percussion. And they had this tight rhythm section and it was discordant and melodic at the same time.

The Modern Dance was another album that had elements of musique concrète, with the radios being tuned in and out, and sort of Americana and a wonderful tonality of the instruments which was very melodic. And ‘Laughing’ is a brilliant track and there's a great line that's stuck in my mind: "And if the devil comes / we'll shoot him with a gun", and the way that he delivers that line is so powerful. But they were a superb band and it really brings back memories of that fertile period. They were so charismatic and so unusual, so fresh and brilliant.