Essential New Music: Pere Ubu’s “Elitism For The People: 1975-1978”

PereUbu

The target audience for Elitism For The People, Pere Ubu’s vinyl archival boxed set of studio and live work from 1975-1978, is exceedingly focused, so let’s assess the set on those terms: If you’re the sort of fidelity geek who squealed when the “Coppola Restoration” of The Godfather allowed you to actually see the blood mist bloom behind Sollozzo’s head when Michael Corleone clipped him in the restaurant, welcome home. Elitism’s four discs of 180-gram vinyl—comprising studio albums The Modern Dance and Dub Housing, the early self-released “Hearpen singles” and a short live set from Max’s Kansas City in 1977—were transferred from the original two-track analogue tapes at super-high digital resolution, then fully remastered. The set is minimally packaged, and reasonably if realistically priced, given the production costs of high-quality vinyl.

But if you’re a fan of these albums, be assured that the music’s never sounded this good or this clear, not even on 1996’s generous Datapanik In The Year Zero boxed set. David Thomas’ high paranoid cluck is placed full, forefront and bell-clear in every mix, making the listening experience somehow even more unsettlingly intimate; Tony Maimone’s bass (and Tim Wright’s famous intro run on “The Modern Dance”) is deeper and sharper, pegged firmly in the EQ as opposed to throbbing around fuzzily all over the tracks.

Because the band is invariably attentive to small touches, Pere Ubu is one of those rare groups that improve exponentially the clearer the audio gets. Even a listener deeply familiar with these records—no, especially that listener—will enjoy a high reward for the outlay, which also comes with digital mp3 or FLAC download.

—Eric Waggoner