My Top 1000 Songs #342: Non-Alignment Pact

[I've been writing up my Top 1000 songs on a daily basis--you can see them all in descending order by hitting the All My Favorite Songs tag.]

Here's another great song from a band I don't otherwise spend a lot of time with. Pere Ubu's experimental art-punk, both in its original late 70s heyday and various later incarnations, was a little too challenging for these tender ears, and the non-linear nature of the music and frontman David Thomas' sometimes abrasive screech could put me off.

Still, "Non-Alignment Pact," the lead-off track from their 1978 debut The Modern Dance, introduced the band (setting aside from earlier singles) in surprisingly dramatic fashion, a blast of relatively straightforward punk rock with a cathartic sing-along hook. Sexual politics reconsidered as international détente, the song is wicked fun. Yes, the band keeps things from slipping into comfortable punk-pop traditions, with the high-pitched feedback that opens the song and Thomas' howl reminding the listener this isn't the Ramones; but there's no way you don't end up fist-pumping along with the chorus.

It's also another example of a song where the cover is at least as good as the original. Julian Cope, early in his post-Teardrop Explodes career, included his version as a b-side on his 1986 single "World Shut Your Mouth," and that was my introduction to the song (which then led me back to check out the original). Cope strips away the feedback, and supplies some more palatable (albeit still far from slick) vocals, but otherwise sticks to the original blueprint, from the distinctive bassline to the relentless drive.

Pere Ubu original:

Julian Cope cover:
Pere Ubu live 2011:
Julian Cope live (this is the best of the pack):