Review Summary: It stinks in my house - it stinks
The air is stale and foul in there
Blood and juice and pubic hair
The legacy of Scratch Acid resides, unfortunately, in the shadow of their more conventional descendant The Jesus Lizard, for while both groups feature the cacophonous howl of David Yow anchored by the rumbling lurch of David Wm. Sims on bass, The Jesus Lizard was a more mature, focused realization of the sprawling madness of Scratch Acid. Where The Jesus Lizard was slightly more methodical in the expression of their breed of chaos, there’s a youthful kind of energy in Scratch Acid’s output, a willingness to experiment (with varied results) that is much more reigned in on the output of the later band. This isn’t to say that the former band’s output doesn’t match the latters. On the contrary, the fact Yow found much greater success with his later band is possibly a testament to just how ahead of their time Scratch Acid really was.
Their first EP, released in the summer of 1984 finds them already with a unique sound, only slightly reigned in by the rules of conventional punk rock. “Cannibal” opens like a kick to the chest with a pounding 6/4 beat matched to a growling riff as Yow shrieks his guts out to a tale of autocannibalism, quickly followed by the slightly more reigned in “Greatest Gift”, a swaggering country fried number about buried corpses, showing Yow’s early infatuation with themes of morbidity and social transgression.
Yow of course is beholden to no conventional musical standards, his wildeyed banshee screech more unpolished, more wild, more gorgeous than anything he was able to call forth in The Jesus Lizard. When the EP is at its best, despite the wild sound of each member playing almost frantically the band sounds incredibly tight, instrumentals stop-starting on a dime, lurching between pounding fills , roaring noise and breakneck gallops like the songs were spontaneously vomited from the minds of the band fully realized. For the most part Yow performs his minor vocal miracles precisely when it’s most effective, best demonstrated on the breakneck rant of “Monsters” and the rolling thump of “Mess” the voice of the man in the midst of a psychotic break throwing bottles in an empty room, shrieking, gibbering, coughing, howling.
Despite the general clarity of vision and uncompromising attack of most of the EP the middle section is hampered by a couple of minor missteps. The band experiments with a string section in the relatively sedate “Owner’s Lament”, a novel element (for an 80s noise rock tune anyway) that has middling success in a song that adds little to the EP. Added with the somewhat more interesting, but still not quite necessary “El Espectro”, which has some fairly conventional punk riffing saved mostly by yet another unparalleled Yow performance and the EP falls just short of perfection. Overall though, the release is able to stand up with all but the very best of the band that would later make Yow and company famous and is an essential addition to the collection of anyone with even a passing interest in noise rock.