The uncompromising nature of this album is obvious from the start with Pere Ubu’s David Thomas singing, “You can go to hell” repeatedly over a mess of electro and rumbling noise.
The density of sound doesn’t relent for the rest of ‘Lady in Shanghai’. This is a release to ponder at length; its construction is surrealist without seeming arbitrary, it follows an odd dream-logic that see it all hang together coherently. Functionally, a dance rock album, the jump of the post-punk rhythms are, however, constantly pulled off-kilter by things like wasp-in-a-jar electronics (Mandy), a disturbing take on ‘Mary had a Little Lamb (Feuksley Ma’am, The Hearing) or a CD-skipping loop that builds to a clatter of chimes and guitar mangling (And Then Nothing Happened). There is something of The Fall circa The Unutterable about the whole thing, apparent in its ramshackle broken-ness, mysterious vocal utterances and astute rock subversions.
With this release Pere Ubu have added to Fire Records growing roster of alt-delights alongside Josephine Foster, Guided by Voices and Mission of Burma. ‘Lady From Shanghai’ is an album of depth; repeated listens only invite further exploration, its truth is artfully obscured or perhaps entirely absent. This is art-rock at its best. Conventions and clichés are either exploded or distorted into incomprehensible shapes.