Pere Ubu: Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1975)

 |   |  1 min read

Pere Ubu: Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1975)

Truly terrifying music is rare: there aren't that many pieces which make the hair on the back of your neck prickle, fill you with a sense of impending doom, make you feel uneasy somewhere deep within a part of your brain where rational thought no longer works for you.

Pere Ubu -- whose debut album The Modern Dance appears at Essential Elsewhere incidentally -- manage that kind of music with alarming regularity, especially in their early days.

They made visceral music of sinew and gristle, propelled by industrial noise and David Thomas' threatening vocals which were more Eraserhead than Halloween, more suggested than overt. The disconcerting desperation in his voice, the odd sounds, the suggestion of an unspecified narrative . . .

This all added up to music of unease -- and few bands would launch a "career" on the back of a single like Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (with Heart of Darkness on the flipside).

Inspired by a film about the first American bombing mission over Japan -- but seemingly more about the psyche and notion of it rather than the fact -- Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo is like being inside a prism and seeing your reflection as victim on some sides and right through to your enemy's eyes (on the ground or in the cockpit) on others.

And as the tension rises it becomes harder and harder to turn away.

Helluva debut single if nothing else.

But it was always about much more than that.

For more one-off songs, unusual singles or music with a backstory see From the Vaults

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   From the Vaults articles index

Bob Dylan: Why Try to Change Me Now (2015)

Bob Dylan: Why Try to Change Me Now (2015)

We didn't go too far back into the Vaults for this one by Bob Dylan, it is from his excellent Shadows in the Night covers album, but of course the song goes way, way back. It was written by Cy... > Read more

Jesus and Mary Chain: Surfin' USA (1988)

Jesus and Mary Chain: Surfin' USA (1988)

Because it's hard to imagine William and Jim Reid from Glasgow would be enthusiastic surfers, we have to guess they chose to cover Brian Wilson's classic song for other reasons, like irony . . . or... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

SIR HOWARD MORRISON REMEMBERED (2009): Howard's way

SIR HOWARD MORRISON REMEMBERED (2009): Howard's way

It gives me no pleasure to note the coincidence, but earlier this week I started watching the three-part doco Once in a Lifetime, a Maori Television two-hour interview with the late Sir Howard... > Read more

JEFFERSON AIRPLANE; THE SIDE PROJECTS 1970-74: The Baron and the Nun go it alone, together

JEFFERSON AIRPLANE; THE SIDE PROJECTS 1970-74: The Baron and the Nun go it alone, together

The New York garageband Blues Magoos' Psychedelic Lollipop of 1966 was one of the first albums to have the word “psychedelic” in the title, but it wasn't quite the spaced-out sweet... > Read more