The Lounge Lizards
Voice of Chunk


3.9
excellent

Review

by hug rap's painful goodbye STAFF
January 31st, 2024 | 13 replies


Release Date: 1988 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Siren song → lizard death

Never trust a reptile. My childhood friend had a pet Komodo dragon housed in a lounge space, and its upkeep required a parallel exhibit of pet locusts purely for the sake of live bait – morbid shit. As far as the scaly ones go, there is always, always, always an ulterior motive or, worse, no motive at all: just an unblinking nihilist vortex pumped impassively from a cold, cold heart. Call someone a couch potato and they are incompetent, easy to tolerate, and even easier to ignore; call someone a lounge lizard and, eek, who are they and what do they want with that lounge? Case-in-point, the Couch Potatoes were an obscure punk band from Tunbridge Wells, Kent and nobody on earth has listened to their music in [current decade], but as fate has it, the Lounge Lizards were an oddball act from NYC who 1) played irreverent jazz (from assorted schools), 2) are enjoyed by many to this day, and 3) true to their shady namesake, carry an unspoken imperative in practically all their work to remind oneself that something is not quite fucking right here.

This ominous maxim would go without saying if we were talking about the Loungers' self-titled debut, a cult classic that saw Chief Lizard John Lurie (sax) and his brother Evan (keys) pal up with no wave legend Arto Lindsay (guitar) to emulate the sneeriest, leeriest overtones of the punk spirit within the vocabulary and arrangements of a straight-shooting post-bop act. That record brimmed with iconic levels of menace, and its lizard-skin was in plain sight for every second of its runtime. Not so on today's pick: Voice of Chunk is – at least to my ears – by far their most melodically appealing album, frequently bordering on outright pleasant if you take it in with undiscerning (/un-paranoid) ears. Opener "Bob the Bob" introduces a gorgeous sax motif (reprised on "Bob the Bob (Home)" and playfully expanded on highlight "Uncle Jerry"), setting a tone more in line with an exotically-inclined ECM record than the bebop swagger of the self-titled, while the likes of "One Big Yes" and closer "Travel" squeeze the whole band into dense arrangements, too meticulously developed to be true jams but most certainly (fuck) jam-packed with colour, each instrument practically competing for attention with every other.

These tracks are so vibrantly realised that John Lurie's feral temperament is often difficult to make out, and you'll struggle to apply the classic Lounge Lizards descriptors of old to much of this record (lean, noise, motherfuck, stabby-stabby, William-Burroughs-reading demographic): are you sure these are the Lizards you're looking for?

Well, quite likely, no they are not! The group underwent significant line-up changes following their self-titled record. Along with the entire original rhythm section, Lindsay quit the band in response to Lurie's burgeoning creative control, only for his seat to be filled by a guitarist of an entirely different background: Marc Ribot, perhaps best known for his work with John Zorn, Elvis Costello and on Tom Waits' Rain Dogs. On Voice of Chunk, the Luries and Ribot are joined by Erik Sanko (bass), Dougie Brown (drums), Roy Nathanson (sax), Curtis Fowlkes (trombone) and E.J. Rodriguez (percussion, of which you'll be hearing a lot) – the same lineup as on the previous year's No Pain For Cakes. However, compared to that album's seductive-but-scatty bill of curios, Voice of Chunk flexes an impressively cohesive tracklist (that central motif really pulls its weight!) despite packing a tad more chutzpah when it comes to taking its most distinctive ideas to extremes.

This is where the evil eyes and reptile blood come in: don't be deceived by the melodious ploy of the album's opening tracks and the (many) delicate facets of its composition! Things get considerably muckier in the backend, as per the inevitable freak-jazz noiseball "Sharks Can't Sleep" and the showstopping "Tarantella", a murderous take on the eponymous folk dance that somehow lands as the most sinister tune I've heard since the "Heffalumps and Woozles" showstopper in whichsoever Winnie the Pooh feature-length (any parents in the house, just you try screening that shit in front of your four-year-old) – and if that's too far off the deep end, then "The Hanging" is a saucy entreaty to any boorish hangers-on who find the peak of jazz in the doom and kitsch of a noirish creeper (on the off-chance any of you pushovers can tear yourselves away from your Bohren & der Club of Gores and/or Pink Panther soundtracks for three whole songs before you hit your first minor-key blues refrain).

In fairness, "The Hanging" is a legitimate zinger! And from track's user-friendly suspense all the way to "A Paper Bag and the Sun"'s post-minimalist avant-jazz oddball, Voice of Chunk really does have something for everyone – so why do I get the sense that it hates me, and has only lured me in to suck the dreams out of my eyes and tattoo yesterday's lottery numbers where my mojo once squirmed? Why does "Travel" wrap the whole package up like a tense denouement in a Palermo restaurant rounded off with an extremely efficient knife fight that I do not survive? This sneaky blend of sophisticated loungers and lizardlike creepers goes by so smoothly that by the time it takes on an air of the uncanny, your expectations of what you thought you were in for have most likely honed themselves to an unforgiving, steely point across which the band proceed to slyly graze you at varying intensities. Yum. I've made it through Voice of Chunk enough times that I feel thoroughly carved up by now (aka the precise opposite of how critiquing a record is supposed to work), and all I have to offer you for making it to the bottom of this page, besides a largely-positive testimonial that this thing's intrigue and fuckery are devilishly smartly crafted and well worth the unforgiving increments of hi-jinx they will inevitably inflict upon you

is that

I really like Marc Ribot's guitar solo on the title-track, and

this is a good record.



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user ratings (15)
4.1
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
January 31st 2024


60160 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

I AM FREE thank you FowlKrietzsche for hitting me up with this band!! I still do not know what I think of their last album, but I do know that this one is definitely my favourite!? WHY does it have the lowest number of votes on Sputnik??

Get right into this, jazz pseud gang

Butkuiss
January 31st 2024


6844 Comments


Orders from the motherland received and acknowledged 🫡

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
January 31st 2024


60160 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

Go forth, Butlizard, and procreate big things!!

Mort.
January 31st 2024


25062 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

'Case-in-point, the Coach Potatoes'



should that be couch potatoes?

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
January 31st 2024


32013 Comments


"Get right into this, jazz pseud gang"

はー〜〜い

bighubbabuddha
January 31st 2024


481 Comments


Funky Chunk

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
January 31st 2024


60160 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

I am the coach potatoes

Mort.
January 31st 2024


25062 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i am your proofreader



pay me monies

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
January 31st 2024


60160 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

Will you accept as payment: this entire stinky website

Mort.
January 31st 2024


25062 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i could make more in an afternoon selling my hoo-hah to the sailors

FowlKrietzsche
January 31st 2024


619 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Ayy great review, glad you dug the Lizards!

Mort.
February 21st 2024


25062 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this is very good stuff

bellovddd
February 21st 2024


5661 Comments


not to shabby



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