Review Summary: When it comes to 90’s noise rock, “Goat” is unsurpassed in creativity, aggressiveness, and sheer insanity.
Spawning from the subsidiary noise rock group “Scratch Acid,” The Jesus Lizard emerged in 1989 with their first EP “Pure,” which is an incredibly raw album recorded with a drum machine. This marked the beginning of one of the greatest and most absurd noise rock groups of the 90’s, and arguably, of all time. After recruiting drummer Mac McNeilley, they were finally a complete force and debuted as such a year after their EP with “Head,” the point to which their true potential began to manifest.
From “Pure” to their fourth record “Down” (after which their unique sound began to quickly deteriorate) legendary Steve Albini was the producer (worked with Nirvana, Pixies, Breeders, Mogwai, PJ Harvey, Low, Jawbreaker, Superchunk…you get the idea) and did so in such a way that made the albums feel as close as possible to their mad live performances. At shows, vocalist David Yow would often become heavily inebriated followed by him taking off his clothes, jumping into the crowd, indecipherable rambling, licking and kissing audience members, striking up conversation mid song; there’s even a clip floating around where he gets knocked out cold (presumably) by a tossed beer bottle, only to get up moments later and say “Nice shot, dick.” (See Link 1) Surprisingly, almost every live video you look at, Yow barely ever messes up, no matter how drunk, bruised or battered he becomes. Albini also had a way of keeping the vocals low in the mix which turned them more into an instrument rather than front man.
Although “Liar” may be an essential 90’s record and “Head” framed their psychotic sound, “Goat” is their true masterpiece, unmatchable in force and originality. “Goat” is truly the only record of theirs that doesn’t contain at least some weak points; it’s about as rock-solid as you can get. I mean, how often do you hear “essential noise rock?” It’s not very often, as a grand majority of noise rock contains points of over-encumbering the listener. This is not nearly the case with “Goat” as each song is unique enough to stand alone and ends up being just about as cohesive of a noise rock record as you can get, without be categorized as something different.
Noise rock may be the best and safest way to describe The Jesus Lizard’s modus operandi, but that doesn’t come close to describing it. To call them “genre-defying” might be a bit much, but it’s not too far of a stretch. Right from the first track “Here Comes Dudley” we get sounds ranging from hardcore, since the song is fit with a break down and alternative country, which is very prominent throughout. “Seasick” is an anxious stoner rock jam, “Money Trick” is all over the place, often sounding like country straight from the depths of Hell, “Karpis” could be a “Gang of Four” song gone hardcore, and even surfer rock makes an appearance on “Lady Shoes,” which sounds like deranged version of “Wipeout.” Psychedelic rock plays a role on and off like on finale track “Rodeo in Joliet,” but the biggest undertones are post-hardcore and alternative country.
Whatever genre they are, each member is prominently displayed on the mix, and at most times are all doing their own thing. Sim’s bass lines range from groovy, to heavy, often becoming the glue that holds the tracks together. Guitarist Denison dances around the slick bass lines creating all the different genre connotations previously mentioned. As for the drums, McNeilley never over does his job nor does he ever go too soft, capitalizing breakdowns and pushing every track to new heights, time and time again. And Yow is the inmate running the asylum, often sounding like a swollen-tongued maniac.
Lyrically this album is a cluster-***, for lack of a more fitting term. Some songs don’t even have a distinguishable plot, such as “South Mouth” which is maybe about sex, or “Money Trick” where Yow even admitted it had no context: “’Money Trick’ …I think that’s the best we ever did. And lyrically, I don’t have a clue what the song is about.” In some songs, it might be easy to find a central story line but still are just as demented as the rest, especially “Lady Shoes” where you go from a little girl getting an enema from her mother, to her father jacking off, to a nurse killing babies with a sledge hammer, and end with someone defecating in their hand to use as lipstick. Word play is often used as well like “Rodeo in Joliet” is an obvious play on Romeo and Juliet, and “Nub,” a song about a kid sticking his arm out of the bus only to get it lobbed off, is overtly ironic with lines like: “But I got to hand it to you, you’re taking this extremely well.” By far my favorite lyrics are contained on “Mouth Breather.” The story goes that producer Albini let Britt Walford house-sit well he was gone and he returned to his door being busted-in and a toilet broken to the point that it was leaking piss all over his music equipment in the basement. His apparent remark after the fact was: “Don’t get me wrong, I like him just fine, but he’s a mouth breather.”
If you haven’t yet come across this classic yet, I highly recommend it to anyone who loves a good ol’ raw grungy record. Few albums replicate the sheer intensity that this album emulates. Out of all the metal I listen to, nothing quite gets my head banging as hard as The Jesus Lizard does. Crack open a few cold ones, have some friends over and blast this; you can’t go wrong. And if one of your friends makes a negative comment directed toward your music choice, chuck a beer at that square and tell them to get on your level!
Link for video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uu9lUbf5GQ0
Link for review: http://www.speak-sound.com/single-post/2016/12/02/Flashback-Friday-The-Jesus-Lizard