Produced by David Thomas.
Out of print.
Vinyl was released by Fire Records in the Drive, He Said
box set, Mar. 10 2017.
• The design process
• Photos of the Suma session
Pennsylvania Release Notes
Greil Marcus, esteemed American critic and lecturer, wrote in his book 'Double Trouble' (Faber and Faber, 2000, pages 167-168):
"Thomas' gnostic argument - that art exists to at once reveal secrets and to preserve them - makes sense of a particularly American - or modern - form of storytelling. In a big, multifaceted democracy, you're supposed to be able to communicate directly with everyone, yet many despair of being understood by anyone at all.
"Out of this comes an American language that means to tell a story no one can turn away from. But this language - identified by D. H. Lawrence in 1923, in Studies in Classic American Literature, as the true modernist voice, the voice of Hawthorne, Poe, Melville - is cryptic before it is anything else. It is all hints and warnings, and the warnings are disguised as non sequiturs. The secret is told, but nonetheless hidden, in the musings, babblings, or tall tales of people who seem too odd to be like you or me, like us - like the author who puts his or her name to the story, insisting that he made it all up, that she just did it for the money.
"The whole existence of such people is premised on their attempt to tell a secret, perhaps to discover the secret in the telling, in the stunned, shocked response the telling provokes - and their idea of democracy is premised on the conviction that no one can be at home in a place where it is presumed there are no secrets, that all reality is transparent, that all people are the same. Thus those who tell this story, who want desperately to be heard, will likely mistrust even an imaginary audience. If they are like Thomas on Pere Ubu's Pennsylvania, they'll create an aura of portent and unease, but mostly, as it were, sinistramente, with the left hand; by means of unfinished sentences, dead-end monologues, floating images, outmoded phrases, archaic pronunciations, a tone of voice that is blank and addled by turn.
"The tenor of all the wistful, vaguely paranoid tales of displacement on Pennsylvania - tales of abandoning the Interstate highways, getting lost, and finding the perfect town when it's too late to change your life and live in it - is caught in the weirdly menacing way Thomas pronounces "Los Angeles" in the tune "Highwaterville." It's the old flophouse way, the way Anjelica Huston's character speaks the name in The Grifters, with a hard 'g' and a long 'e' at the end, so that the place sounds like a disease. The same sense of the strange, the unacceptable, in the familiar is there in "Mr Wheeler," which sounds like an old tape of a very old telephone call, a tape that showed up in a box in a room in a house where no one has lived for 20 years. "Uh, Mr. Wheeler?" somebody says; as with every bit of talk in the number, it's followed by a long instrumental passage, as if some great drama is taking shape around a story that will never be put back together...
"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..."
Pennsylvania Production Notes
Engineered by Paul Hamann.
Recorded at Suma.
Director's Cut (2005):
Cooking Vinyl USA celebrated 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."
The 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.
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.
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
Pennsylvania Release History
- Tim/Kerr Records TK155-2 (US) Apr 21 1998 cd.
- RTI Records (Italy) CKV13022 Jun 1998 cd.
- Cooking Vinyl COOK CD139 (UK) Mar 2 1998 cd. Original Issue.
- Bomba Records BOM22061 (Japan) Mar 29 1998 cd.
- Cooking Vinyl USA CKV-CD-139 (US) Sep 6 2005 cd. Director's Cut.
- Cooking Vinyl COOKCD139 Nov 23 2006 cd. Director's Cut.
- Vinyl Lovers (Russia) 2010 lp.