Review Summary: With the interference of a major label, the Jesus Lizard produce their most accessible record to date.
The Jesus Lizard are a band from the 1990s known for pioneering the loosely defined genre of noise rock. They are characterized by their jagged guitar riffs, elastic bass playing, groovy drumming, and unintelligible vocal delivery. Throughout their time as a band, they released some of the best rock records of the 90s such as Goat
, but for the most part their formula stayed the same for their whole career. Soon though, some found this to be repetitive, and Shot
is a prime example of this.
First and foremost, the now legendary engineer Steve Albini is gone. Known for his hatred of major labels, it was expected that he would drop out for their next record though. Due to this, the overall sound changed a lot more than it seems like it would. David Yow’s shouted vocals are now much higher in the mix, which is both good and bad. Whereas on the earlier records he sounded like, as Michael Azerrad said it, “a kidnap victim trying to howl through the duct tape over his mouth.” With his vocals now much more audible, it loses that feel for the most part and instead has a more traditional, alternative rock kind of sound. The strange stops and starts in the rhythm section are also gone for the most part, with most of the songs opting for a traditional verse-chorus-bridge kind of structure. This again can be seen as either an advantage or a disadvantage. The result is a bit more of a streamlined feel than their earlier albums.
The musicianship has certainly improved this time around, but it's quite likely they did more takes on this record than any of the Albini recorded albums. David Sims’s bass playing has improved in particular though, with the elasticity of his earlier material being performed better for the most part. They’ve avoided the complexity of earlier songs such as “Boilermaker”, “Mouth Breather”, or “Gladiator”, and as I stated before, opted for more traditional song structures. The overall sound is much tamer because of this, which despite being more accessible, makes for something the Jesus Lizard were never really about. With all this, the album is much more forgettable than their other albums, despite being a bit easier to actually comprehend.
So what is Shot
in the Jesus Lizard discography? It is certainly their most accessible record, but it feels too tame compared to their other albums. They've incorporated a more commercial approach to things, but they haven't quite "sold out". Steve’s absence has left a piece of the puzzle missing for them, but as a whole it is quite solid. Almost everything the Jesus Lizard was known for can be found in here, but the approach is much more commercial and streamlined due to the absence of certain elements. So, Shot
is a solid release in the Jesus Lizard catalog, but certainly far from their greatest.