Crunchy Lizard

The Jesus Lizard - Blue
(Capitol Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)

By Tony Bonyata

Now this is what heavy metal should sound like. Guitars with the velocity of a runaway freight train roaring past a construction site complete with buzzsaws, jackhammers and power drills working overtime. Vocals that, although barely unintelligible, snake through the mix and then leap out at your throat. And a hypnotic, almost demented rhythm section that could scare the begeezuz out of you. This is The Jesus Lizard, be forewarned.
Ever since the release of their 1989 e.p. "Pure" The Jesus Lizard, a foursome from Chicago, have been honing their apocalyptic sound through their explosive live performances, that often tend to get out of control. Musically the band has the intensity of modern hardcore techno bands while maintaining it with just the use of standard rock instruments - guitar, bass and drums. Singer David Yow's onstage antics, which includes daredevil acrobatics as well as a more than occasional strip show, have been compared to the raw energy of Iggy Pop in his heyday with The Stooges in the early seventies. His vocal style, however, resembles no one else as he growls, grunts and slobbers out his, often biting, lyrics. Definitely not pretty, but effective.
For their past studio albums The Lizard has tried to capture their combustible live sound on record, sometimes succeeding as they did on "Goat" and "Liar" and other times not as on the more recent one-dimensional albums "Down" and "Shot".
Now on their seventh release, Blue, The Lizard, which also features guitarist Duane Denison, bassist David Wm. Sims and newcomer on the sticks, James Kimball (from the Detroit bands Laughing Hyena's and Mule), has thrown their let's-do-it-live approach out the studio window instead taking advantage of modern effects such as samples, looping and state-of-the-art gadgetry. Yow admits that their trying to branch out a bit on Blue.
"We're hoping it's seen as a bit different, since the last few records we've done could basically be one big long record", he concluded.
Not only have they succeeded in expanding their sound but they have actually added, dare I say, melody to some of it as on the song "Horse Doctor Man". The band has also slightly toned down their punk-angst, as well as the added novelty of Yow delivering what could be construed as actual singing, on the more traditional rock songs "Needles For Teeth" with it's writhing guitar, "I Can Learn" and the churning "Tale Of Two Women". One thing that they haven't changed, however, is their ominous, looming sound. Yow drones and Denison's guitar howls like ghost-winds over the trance-like rhythm on "Eucalyptus" while the band exudes a punk-metal crunch on "Happy Snakes".
While definitely not everyone's cup of poison, The Jesus Lizard have an edge and raw intensity to their music that few other punk / metal bands can touch.

Return to CD Archives
Return to CD Reviews
Return to Menu