Ubu, X: The Man With X-Ray Eyes
seems like the perfect marriage of two so-called “missing
links.” Pere Ubu, who came along in 1975, have been called
the lost connection between the Velvet Underground and punk.
Producer-director Roger Corman, it can be argued, is the
missing link between old Hollywood and new. They come together
tomorrow (Friday) night at MASS MoCA when Pere Ubu will
perform their original musical score for Corman’s 1963 horror
film X: The Man With X-Ray Eyes.
The plot takes the classic goth mad-scientist plot and joins
it to the sleazier side of American pulp fictions. Dr. Xavier
(Ray Milland) is obsessed with his advanced research in
human optics. One experiment gone awry and one murder later,
the good doctor can see through clothes and is on the run,
hiding out in a carnival run by Don Rickles and posing as
a psychic. The problem is—we’re just getting to the
problem—his vision keeps getting stronger and stronger,
to disturbing effect.
The British rock rag New Musical Express has called
Pere Ubu “the world’s only expressionist rock & roll
band, harnessing a range of rock and musique concrete
elements together in a sound which drew its power from,
and worked on, levels of consciousness previously untouched
by popular music.”
Yes, they were great; no, they didn’t sell many records;
and yes, after all these years and numerous personnel changes,
Pere Ubu are still making haunting and compelling music.
Their score for X, which premiered in Brooklyn last
year, has won raves. As The Argus described it: “Pere
Ubu have created a sympathetic and subtle soundtrack which
works with the film rather than stamping their distinctive
mark on it.”
Pere Ubu will perform their original music for a screening
of X: The Man With X-Ray Eyes tomorrow (Friday, Aug.
12) at 8:30 PM at MASS MoCA (1040 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams,
Mass.). Doors open at 8 PM. Tickets are $17. For tickets
and information, call (413) 662-2111.
A Song Cycle
William Finn’s work Elegies: A Song Cycle is a compilation
of songs that were written in tribute to a selection of
deceased people (and some deceased dogs) who have had a
great impact on the writer’s life. Finn is highly regarded
as a master storyteller; his works include The 25th
Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (which premiered at
the Barrington Stage Company) and Falsettos, and
he has won two Tony Awards for the latter. The Boston
Globe has said of Elegies, “What Finn accomplishes
in Elegies is nothing short of miraculous.”
The performance tonight (Thursday) of Elegies by
Barrington Stage Company is a preview; tomorrow (Friday)
is opening night. There will also be a postshow talk with
Finn after tomorrow night’s performance; the talk is included
in the price of the ticket.
The Barrington Stage Company will present Elegies: A
Song Cycle at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center (Castle
Street, Great Barrington, Mass.) tonight (Thursday, Aug.
11) through Aug. 28. Performances are Tuesdays at 7 PM,
Wednesday-Saturday at 8 PM, Fridays also at 2 PM, and Sundays
at 5 PM. Ticket prices are $15-$48. For more information
and to buy tickets, call (413) 528-0100.
are few words in the rock-crit lexicon as overused as “legendary.”
But, when talking about Brian Wilson’s album Smile,
few others seem apt.
Wilson and the Beach Boys began recording the album, which
was to be the follow-up to their creative landmark album
Pet Sounds, in 1967. But Wilson’s record label and
bandmates were less than confident about the commercial
viability of the composer’s proposed “teenage symphony to
God.” (As critically well-received as Pet Sounds
was, it wasn’t nearly as profitable in the short term as
the suits would choose—go figure.) In addition to external
opposition, Wilson’s own personal problems—heavy drug use
and bouts of mental illness—made it impossible to complete
the album. So, after a whopping 72 recording sessions, Smile
was shelved; and from that shelf it proceeded directly
to the realm of legend.
Over the years, afficianados have pieced together available
bits of the album, using the few commercially released tracks
(including “Good Vibrations” and “Heroes and Villians”),
missing bits provided by the Beach Boys box set, and numerous
bootlegs. It was possible to kinda-sorta re-create what
maybe-mighta been something-sorta like the mysterious withheld
record. But these unofficial compilations weren’t the thing
itself. Smile had become the Holy Grail of pop music.
After 37 years, the grail received a release date.
In September 2004, Nonesuch Records issued Smile,
a version rerecorded by Wilson, arranger- lyricist Van Dyke
Parks and Wilson’s new backing band, the Wondermints. It
is, to put it mildly, quite a piece of work. The three-movement
rock opera pulls out all the stops: sweeping, orchestral,
diverse—even scattered at times—exuberant, mindblown. This
is not your mama’s Beach Boys.
On Sunday (Aug. 18), Wilson will perform Smile, along
with other of his compositions, at SPAC (Saratoga Spa State
Park, Saratoga Springs). He’ll be backed by a 10-piece band,
including the Wondermints and a brass octet—to better capture
all the aforementioned adjectives. Tickets are $15-$60.
For more information, call 476-1000.