[Pennsylvania Cover] Pennsylvania
(Apr. 1998)
Produced by David Thomas.

The Director's Cut is out of print.

Vinyl is released by Fire Records as a part of the Drive, He Said box set on March 10 2017. A pre-sale offer is available from Ubutique.
The Wire, Edwin Pouncey, March '98, pp.59-60
As slick, slippery and dangerous as a tank of electric eels... It is hard to not be moved by their huge surges of power and passion. The greatest thing about Pennsylvania, though, is how Pere Ubu suck you in and hold you fast, and for 70 minutes you're convinced that they're the greatest out-rock 'n' roll group of this millennium, and probably the next."

Greil Marcus, "Double Trouble" (Faber and Faber)
What comes into view is a secret country: barely recognizable, and undeniable. And it's a thrill to hear, now, all of David Thomas's voices swirling around the listener, on the street. Pennsylvania seems to draw out of its own spectral geography and that street can be wherever you find yourself...

Mojo, Joe Cushley, April '98
A truth-defining album... Ubu are generally regarded as the missing link between the Velvets and punk. From the beginning they obviously understood the nuts and bolts of popular music, and then loosened them.
Director's Cut (2005):
  1. Woolie Bullie (3:41)
  2. Highwaterville (1:36)
  3. SAD.TXT (3:26)
  4. Urban Lifestyle (2:55)
  5. Silent Spring (4:15)
  6. Mr Wheeler (3:35)
  7. Muddy Waters (3:26)
  8. Slow (1:07)
  9. Drive (4:17)
  10. Indiangiver (:58)
  11. Monday Morning (3:32)
  12. Perfume (4:31)
  13. Fly's Eye (2:39)
  14. The Duke's Saharan Ambitions (4:56)
  15. Wheelhouse (5:03)
  16. Fly's Eye (alt mix) (2:44)
  17. SAD.TXT (live)* (3:48)
  18. My Name Is... (live) (7:30)
  19. Dr Sax (out-take)* (5:12)
* - Directors Cut
Links and Background:
ReviewsLyricsFAQThe design processHoliday snaps

Production Notes::
Engineered by Paul Hamann.
Recorded at Suma.
All songs written by Herman - Jones - Mehlman - Temple - Thomas - Wheeler, except Dr. Sax which is written by Herman - Mehlman - Temple - Thomas - Wheeler. All songs ©1998 Ubu Projex, administered by Bug Music (The World, except the EU), ©1998 ECC (EU only).

David Thomas - vocals, organ (Woolie Bullie)
Tom Herman - guitar, bass, tack piano, snare
Jim Jones - guitar, bass, organ
Robert Wheeler - EML & digital synthesizers, theremin, organ
Michele Temple - bass, guitar, organ, piano
Steve Mehlman - drums, percussion

Director's Cut (2005):
Cooking Vinyl USA celebrates the Pere Ubu's 30th year anniversary with the release of The Director's Cut version of Pennsylvania. Released in 1998, American critic and author Greil Marcus voted it #1 in that year's Village Voice Pazz & Jop Music Critics Poll. It landed in Billboard's Best Albums Of The Year, and was Top 10 in The Wire's best of the year.

"The point of doing a Director's Cut is to benefit from that older and wiser thing," David Thomas explains. "I reviewed all alternate mixes from the session, sometimes discovering that an earlier mix turned out to be superior to the chosen mix. As well, 10 years later, we have access to improved mastering technology. Consequently, there is a greater clarity and cohesion to the Director's Cut. We are not going to make both versions available. The Director's Cut is the way it's supposed to be. Period."

Director's Cut logoThe disc was re-mastered at Suma by David Thomas and Paul Hamann in early 2005. Alternate mixes andor edits of "Monday Morning," "Woolie Bullie," "Urban Lifestyle," "Muddy Waters," and "Drive" were substituted. Previously "hidden" tracks, "Fly's Eye (alt mix)" and "My Name Is..." were unhidden. ("My Name Is..." now appears as a shortened version.) The out-take "Dr Sax" was added as a bonus track as well as a live version of "SAD.TXT." The packaging has been redesigned in the jewel case format with a 4 page color booklet. A "Director's Cut" logo appears on the front cover.

"My Name Is..." was recorded live in a rehearsal studio. Jim Jones is playing organ and triggering the drum machine. David Thomas is playing the voices from a Mac.
"Dr Sax" features Tom Herman on sax and Steve Mehlman on foot steps.

Release History:
Tim/Kerr Records TK155-2 (US) 4/21/98 cd.
RTI Records (Italy) 6/98 CKV13022 cd.
Cooking Vinyl COOK CD139 (UK) 3/2/98 cd. Original Issue.
Bomba Records BOM22061 (Japan) 3/29/98 cd.
Cooking Vinyl USA CKV-CD-139 (US) 9/6/05 cd. Director's Cut.
Cooking Vinyl COOKCD139 11/23/06 cd. Director's Cut.
Vinyl Lovers (Russia) 2010 lp.

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Usual self-defeating press release

[The following is the text of the press release for the album.]

Note from record company press agent:

Is there any concept behind the lp? Are there any underlying themes? Is there anything we can say to provide journalists with pointers to aid their understanding of the lp? Where does David see it in relation to his body of work? Basically, it helps enormously if we can offer any guidelines to journalists in understanding the record. Please elucidate.

Response from David:

I will try to help but you gotta understand that I find it an impossible and frustrating task to explain things. That's why I got into rock. Rock music as an art is designed to communicate that which is beyond words. It's visionary, nonlinear, nonverbal, non-narrative, inarticulate. We're dedicated to the art of cohesive, intelligent, nonverbal communication. And then we're supposed to explain it?!?!? With WORDS!? Ah well...

Is there a concept?
Yes. Consider that all the words are owned by the liars and culture is a weapon that's used against us, but that geography can be a mirror, and geography can provide one kind of incorruptible language. Where will the ordinary man turn when the media priests sneer? Geography is a language beyond words and out of the reach of liars. Sound is the medium of the language. They've taken everything from us, those who were assigned to watch over us and protect us. No, they've abandoned us. We preserve and protect what we choose to salvage by encoding it into Sound. We preserve it in a place they can't get their hands on. Stuff like that is what the concept is. Other stuff too.

Are there any underlying themes?
1. Nothing worth understanding explains itself.
2. Anomalies clarify, consistencies confuse.
3. The vision recedes before the visionary.
4. Order and meaning are the proper pursuits of the grown man, to stand against the flood of cynicism and passion for the darkness that pours out from the media priests.

Is there anything we can say to provide journalists with pointers to aid their understanding of the lp?
Pere Ubu is a rock band. We are the mainstream. We are the norm. We require no labels. Labels are only useful for music that's deviated from the mainstream: backwaters and deadends require labels. If you fail to recognize that Pere Ubu and bands of its kind are the mainstream then "everything you know is wrong." Study the history and meaning of rock music. When you arrive at 1975 it's quite clear that the manifest destiny of it as an art form is defined by Pere Ubu and other groups with similar ambitions, everything else falls away along an arc of deviation from the vector of the ideal. Plato will tell you that only the ideal is real. Depends I suppose on whether you rate Plato. So what do you say to journalists? Pere Ubu is an irrelevancy. We don't sell enough records to make any difference. We stubbornly continue along a path which has increasingly fewer points of contact with the rest of the industry and the rest of media-driven society. We can make records that make people cry and we can make them remember what it was that they thought was so special about rock music in the first place. That and a buck gets you a cup of coffee in some states.

So what can I say?

Pere Ubu is a rock band. We are the custodians of the avant-garage.

We had the misfortune to have a dream and vision at an early age that was too powerful to shake in older life. If you're young enough and if the vision is strong enough, you will never lose it-- like the people who became communists in the '30s. They had no alternative but to continue. With us, it's a similar thing. We saw what rock music should be and could be and nothing less than that would ever do for us.

Where does David see it in relation to his body of work?
It's the latest. It's the greatest. It's now! It's pop! It'll sell a million.

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Facts about Pennsylvania we think are important:

  • Breezewood is the state capital.
  • "Laughing" (1977), the first Ubu song to feature the state, commemorates the sighting of "Bill's Laff Inn," a truckstop on I-80.
  • PA is the 11th studio album since 1978, and the 35th Ubu recording released since 1975. All but two of the 35 releases have been engineered by either Ken or Paul Hamann at Cleveland Recording / Suma. The packaging is a digipak design by John Thompson, who's designed 25 of the 35 Ubu releases since 1975. (Follow the design process.) Of the 18 musicians to pass thru Ubu since 1975 four have been outsiders. One of the 18 graduated college.

A picture to look at:

[Photo of the band]

Photo by Jim Jones, featuring the air conditioner units round back at Suma.

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