Tom Herman left the band in late 1979 after a tour of the US in support of New Picnic Time - an alum that was not released in the US. Allen and David went to see The Talking Heads at The Agora. "We were better," David said. "Mayo," Allen replied. Within a month The Red Crayola's Mayo Thompson, and his wife, were in Cleveland working on a new album. (The Red Crayola, aka Red Krayola, a legendary Texas band from the 60s, supported Pere Ubu for a short tour of Europe in late 1978.)
Someone somewhere criticized the band for its obsession with driving. David decided to write his part of the album to be about walking - mind wandering, observing detail underfoot, passing impressions and incidental thoughts.
"I remember sitting in the bathtub," he recalls. "As the water drained I saw the funnel shape it took was defined by the empty center, defined by what wasn't there. I wanted to do an album defined by what wasn't stated."
Guided by Mayo, the band embraced abstraction. Scott and Tony had an idea. They asked for the tape machine and proceeded to jam abstractly on keyboards. It was the song David dubbed 'Lost In Art.' As they tracked the piece, David raged in the control room, "What am I supposed to do with that!?" When they finished, David told Paul to turn on the drum mics and he recorded the drums and vocals in one take. Soon afterwards, a handwritten sign appeared in the control room - a smiley face with devil's horns and the slogan, 'Self-expression is evil.'
Engineered by Paul Hamann.
Recorded and mixed January 1980 at Suma.
1980 release mastered at Masterdisk.
Artwork by John Thompson.
Photos by Mik Mellen.
Reissue package designed by John Thompson.
The analog 1/4" 2-track mix tape from 1982 was digitally transferred by Paul Hamann at Suma at a 192khz / 24 bit resolution. Those files were mastered by Brian Pyle and with them Pete Norman cut the lacquers for vinyl at Finyl Tweek, London, on a Neumann VMS80 lathe. David Thomas prepared the download audio files from the 192khz / 24 bit masters. CD audio was produced by processing the masters with the Izotope Advanced Sample Rate Conversion and MBIT+ dithering.
2008 Master, Director's Cut
Digitally transferred at 192khz / 24 bit resolution and mastered by Paul Hamann at Suma in 2008. Cds from this Master are identified with the words "2008 Master" on the tray card in the lower left. Includes bonus tracks of 'Misery Goats (Jew's Harp),' 'Arabian Nights' and 'Tribute To Miles.'
Digitally transferred at 44.1 khz / 20 bit resolution and mastered by David Thomas and Paul Hamann at Suma in 1994.
This is the most fluid record in Ubu history. The Director's Cut contains all the variants as extras. For the whole byzantine story click here.
David Thomas - vocals, Vox Continental Baroque organ, drums ('Lost In Art')
Mayo Thompson - guitar, piano, backing vocals, lead vocal: 'Loop' and 'Horses'
Allen Ravenstine - EML 101 and 200 analog synthesizers
Tony Maimone - bass, piano, organ
Scott Krauss - drums, horn, piano, drum machine
Rough Trade Records
(UK) Rough 14 June and August 1980 vinyl lp.
(US) Rough US 4 1980 vinyl lp.
(Italy) Base Records Rough 14 Y5 1980 vinyl lp.
(Japan) Rough Trade / Japan Records RTL-4 1981 vinyl lp.
(France)Rough Trade/Barclay Records 200171 vinyl lp mc.
(UK) Rough CD 14 1989 cd.
(US) Rough US 4 1989 cd.
Bomba Records BOM818 (Japan) 5/26/99 cd. 1994 Master.
Cooking Vinyl Records
COOK CD 157 (UK) 11/1/99 cd. 1994 Master.
COOK CD157 (UK) 3/2010 cd. 2008 Master.
Thirsty Ear Records THI 57079.2 (US) 11/16/99 cd. 1994 Master.
S4 Records 496674 2 (Italy) cd. 1994 Master.
Get Back Records
(Italy) GET 81 2001 vinyl lp (180g).
(Italy) GET 90081 ??/?? red-vinyl lp (140g) "lo-cost" logo on sleeve.
Chris Cutler, Melody Maker, 1980
Ubu are moving even further from the conventions of rock music - and from their own past - but still moving forward, without a doubt, and losing none of their integrity as a group. Much of the music operates like a loose-bound net, where apparently hardly connected parts can co-exist, somehow still adding up at the end to an irreducible whole... this is a record of unique beauty - a beauty marked by truth and thus also tragic and sometimes painful.
Ian Penman, New Musical Express, 8/30/80
It is obvious that (the history of) Pere Ubu should not be thought of in terms of a linear development - reducing its entire operation and presence to an exclusive concern for 'working and succeeding in rock and roll. Unfortunately, most criticism - of Pere Ubu, of many other folks - assumes that words have one meaning, that desires point in a single direction, that ideas are logical; it ignores the fact that the world of language, noise and desire is one of lack, insecurity, interruption, struggle, blundering, disguises, ploys, embarrassed grins.
Dave McCullough, Sounds, 8/30/80
So, things being as they are, we're supposed to keep our eyes firmly closed (lest they reveal the relative dirgeness of all else) when a record as exciting and as funnily subversive as 'The Art of Walking' comes around... If [it] is difficult then I'm much much cleverer than I thought, and every other 'successful' music I've heard this year in comparison must be roughly equivalent to sticking your thumb in your mouth and sucking long and hard... The only way [it] isn't a record full of much excitement, fun and compelling interest is if you don't want it to be so.