David Thomas and two pale boys

  • The Sunday Times "Ceaselessly inventive"
  • Time Out "A gloriously garrulous, diffidently divine, pumping, wheezy, melodeon-driven, contemporised avant-folk... Twisted and inspired, it is like everything and nothing you've ever heard, [they] are now creating a whole new kind of strange and affecting beauty."
  • The Financial Times "Grown men cried"
  • Selected Best of The Edinburgh Festival 1998, Music.

David Thomas and two pale boys is avant-garde traditional folk music from the future performed with post-dance technology.

They generate strange and beautiful new shapes, rolling stories, and sonic panoramas out of spontaneous deconstructions created with brass, guitar and electronics. The simple seesawing of a melodeon gives way to cascading electronica and expressionistic soundscapes-- sometimes pulsating and abrasive, sometimes mysterious and exploratory. Through it all is woven the mordant wit of one of the most distinctive and charismatic singers in modern music, David Thomas.

David Thomas is the founder of the legendary Pere Ubu, an avant-rock group that's exerted a huge influence on the way countless bands have approached music since 1975. Formed in 1994, the two pale boys is one of a series of projects that redefine the partnership of voice and instrument in pursuit of a vehicle robust, spontaneous, and parochial enough to speak with the true voice of the human experience. It is urban folk music purged of urbanity, and rooted in the geography of sound.

Founding member of the pale boys, Keith Moliné (Pere Ubu, They Came From The Stars I Saw Them, Infidel) manipulates multiple voices, dynamic calamities, delicate whispers, and angular rhythms via a midi-guitar setup. Andy Diagram (Diagram Brothers, James, The Honkies, The Spaceheads) plays trumpet through radio receivers, echo machines & delays, layering sound-on-sound cascades of electronica. He joined the pale boys in 1996. He replaced violinist Chris Brierley who played with the pale boys in 1994-95.

David Thomas and two pale boys re-wrote the musical score and featured in the London West End production of the "junk opera" Shockheaded Peter for a 3 month run at the Albery Theatre, St Martins Lane from April 4 to June 16, 2002. They featured in Hal Willner's production of "Perfect Partners: Nino Rota & Federico Fellini," April 24 2004, at the Barbican in London, performing the soundtrack to "Satyricon." "A terrifying, raw-noise deconstructivist interpretation," according to The Guardian (4/27/04). In 2011 they began a series of live underscores to the 1962 cult b-movie "Carnival of Souls."

Soundman and ambient synthesist Gagarin from time to time performs as a pale boy.


The latest album is 18 Monkeys on a Dead Man's Chest (2004) which is their third studio album but their fifth release overall. The BBC chose it as Album of the Week for April 5 2004 describing it as "Strange, compelling, terrifying and great." The Wire, April 2004, described it as occupying, "A wider, more disorientating terrain that exists way beyond the stifling, intimate concerns of rock 'n' roll... a feeling of faint existential terror."

Time Out described the previous release, Surf's Up! (2001), as "harrowing and haunting, beautiful and haunted stuff." Mirror Man (1999), a live recording featuring the group expanded into David Thomas and The Pale Orchestra, was praised widely and enthusiastically. Mojo called it a "tour de force." "Meadville," a live bonus disk included in the David Thomas, Monster (1997) box set, was selected by preeminent rock critic Greil Marcus as his favorite record of the year. The first studio album, Erewhon (1996), is "red-blooded, haunted and literally fantastic," according to a rave in The Wire.

Our Doctrine:
Self-expression is evil.

A song is best the first two or three times it's played. The musicians are excited and eager and there's nothing to remember or get right. Nothing can go wrong. The object of David Thomas and two pale boys (2pbs) is to achieve such clarity without resorting to the sort of rambling improvisation that gives improvisation a bad name. The 2pbs engage in "spontaneous song generation." Everybody knows what a song is. It's no great mystery. The freedom of jazz in its heyday was based on the strictness of the blues structure. Rules provide freedom. After a verse comes a chorus. Everybody knows what a chorus has to accomplish. It can, therefore, be invented, on the spot, with confidence. Countless nanoseconds exist-- more than enough time-- for musicians to organize themselves so as to deliver the Good Stuff (structure, focus & dynamics... poetry, vision & passion), and avoid the Bad Stuff (tedium, indulgence & predictability).

Our rule: a song must have 3 things. You got 3 things you got a song.


EREWHON (1996)

Meadville (1997)
Bonus disk in 1997 Monster box set

Mirror Man (1999)

Surf's Up! (2001)

FRONT OF Fire 18m
18 Monkeys On A Dead Man's Chest (2004)