Pere Ubu: By Order of Mayor Pawlicki (Cherry Red) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, August 10th, 2020  

Pere Ubu

By Order of Mayor Pawlicki

Cherry Red

Jul 13, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Pere Ubu’s David Thomas has been kicking around this music thing about as long as anyone out there. The group formed in the mid-’70s and has operated as a unit ever since, save for a brief hiatus where Thomas was more or less operating as a solo artist. With little fanfare, the group released one of their greatest albums with last year’s The Long Goodbye. The album ties up all that had come before, but nothing with Pere Ubu is ever final.

Double album release By Order of Mayor Pawlicki is a 2017 set from the Jarocin Festival in Poland. Thomas, who was into his mid-60s when the gig took place, is joined by longtime members Michele Temple (bass), Robert Wheeler (synths/theremin), Steve Mehlman (drums), and relative newcomer Gary Siperko (guitar). The bulk of the set covers songs from the band’s “Historical Era,” which refers to their five albums released between 1978-1982, including touchstone debut The Modern Dance.

Thomas opens the set with a fervid monologue prompted by the question, “David, what is it like?” In expected Pere Ubu fashion, after a circuitous route, Thomas ends up with “Let’s go!” Thomas and his crew proceed to rip through the first four songs with a youthful zest for life, if only a more youthful band had the chops to pull such a thing off. The 18-song set is the best introduction you can get to the band’s earlier days. Temple’s spongy bass work and Wheeler’s ever-present theremin and synths form the base from which Thomas casts his spell. 

Early highlights of the set include the fierce opening of “Heart of Darkness” and the frantic, up-and-down scales on “Petrified.” Listening to Siperko’s guitar riff on “Navvy,” you can see how some of the band’s earlier works launched a thousand indie rock and post punk ships. Some of the band’s quirkier songs are featured as well, including “Rhapsody in Pink” and “Vulgar Boatman Bird,” the latter following the torrid “Fabulous Sequel” where Thomas and Mehlman trade pummeling blows while Temple bounds around nonplussed.  

Thomas and his crew maintain their stamina fully throughout the set, even when marred with monitor and microphone issues that fortunately had no impact on the quality of the recording. The technical glitches only add to the fun of the set for the listener and serve as a microcosm of Thomas’ career long ability to find a way to somehow get from beginning to end. 

Appended to the album is a set of miscellaneous tracks and cover songs from other recent tours.  The covers are fairly straightforward proto-punk chestnuts but rock hard nonetheless, verifying that the full set performance from Jarocin is a true treasure. By Order of Mayor Pawlicki is a series of impassioned takes of the band’s earliest works and a great jumping off point for exploring all that has transpired since. It’s a legacy worth your awareness and the band’s meticulously detailed website will walk you all the way through. (

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10


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