Greil Marcus, writing in ArtForum (December 1997), enthused about a live recording of the 2pbs.
I don't know what Meadville means, but I think the reason I've played it more than any other music released in 1997 is that when Thomas' joke is at its best, especially then, the music is all about uncertainty, about dread, a dread that spins the present into the future...You hear time passing, you hear time that's passed, you hear an odd commitment to the art of talking out loud, and a bet that someone might be listening, and might talk back, one of these days...By the time (Thomas) reached his stages in 1996, he had become a creature of wonder, so alive to the possibilities of motion and chance in a word or phrase that any given song he might choose to sing will be less a song than a road, a road out or a road back...Thomas' argument is that nothing worth understanding explains itself- he can't explain why he's singing or why you're listening, and his bet is that you can't either-- and that this lack of clarity, though fatal in the market, nevertheless keeps the conversation going, so long as his clues are as good as Raymond Chandler's, who never worried if a clue led nowhere...Time dissolves; the subject matter of Meadville is the last twenty-five years as an irrelevance that has prepared the singer for the next year, should there be one. In other words, on my favorite record of 1997, the year barely exists. It is an absence, a waste of passed time, and it performs a queer trick on time: to imagine Thomas ten or twenty years into the future takes no more and no less effort than it does to imagine him just over the line into 1998.
Review of Shockheaded Peter
Time Out, 4/17/2, Maddy Costa
Thomas' voice defied convention, rumbling and swooping as trumpeter Andy Diagram and guitarist Keith Molinè employ a series of effects to warp and enhance each melody... He [Thomas] is a huge presence, dominating the toy box set and contrasting comically with wiry Julian Bleach, with whom Thomas appears to be curiously furious throughout. There are some terrifyingly volatile moments, particularly during Johnny Head-In-Air when it seems Thomas will actually attack Bleach. This crackling tension, Thomas' dark intonations and the Two Pale Boys' creepy creaks and chords render the show far scarier than in previous productions.
Time Out, 12/5/01, Ross FortuneThe Scotsman
David Thomas endures. Like few others. Pere Ubu, of course, remain undimmed by the years. More, in fact. Their stature positively grows with time's passing. Unusual that. Thomas, meanwhile, does his own thing. As always, only different. And still he stretches and grows. His prolificacy, too, in recent years stands testament to a humble talent raging. A series of albums that beguile and confound. And regular live shows-- always worth catching-- that range in sweep from South Bank exposition to smaller affairs like this. He is comfortable with all. Holding court and sway. Twist and throb. Spook and thrill. That voice, a quivering tremble engaged in squall. And his presence, the hulking blether and shake. Not forgetting the others. Here, his Two Pale Boys. All linked like mesh. As outlined on Thomas's 1997 'Monster' box: "Keith plays midi-guitar and Andy plays a Trumpet Machine Thing so each of them is generating two or more instrument voices at any one point. Don't worry. You are not being cheated. Guaranteed live, in the moment, generated by actual, though pale, human beings." Believe.
"They deconstructed musical forms and let them flow into strange, beautiful new shapes. The audience was prepared to hear difficult, left-field, probably indulgent art-music, but was swept off its feet by Thomas's essential humanity. By the time he'd left the stage, emotional peaks had been scaled by the most unexpected of routes, and there can hardly have been anyone in the building who hadn't felt it."