The Red Telephone Presents: “Goat” by The Jesus Lizard
All things come to an end. And thankfully, all things come to a beginning. Chris Harry, the newest contributor for Culture Fusion ponders the eternal question of beginnings and endings and decides upon a single point of origin: Goat.
Where to begin. Where to begin.
I listened to this about 5 days ago for the first time. I’ve been on a long Grateful Dead trip for the past few months, but for some reason I felt like acting on a suggestion my friend Adam has made to me multiple times. Jesus Lizard. Jesus Lizard.
I listened to Then Comes Dudley on Youtube around a month or so ago, but it didn’t click with me. I’ve since listened to Goat. On repeat. For the past 5 days. I mean, I’ve been listening to other stuff. I even bought the new Boards of Canada. But, my god. I don’t want to know how many times I’ve listened to this album.
Where to begin.
So, they’re from Austin, formed in 1987. The Jesus Lizard play a really heavy driving and hard hitting form of noise rock that is completely original and very brooding. Sparse hints of industrial music and speed metal are found throughout this varied yet distinctive record.
Their lead singer, David Yow, is a slightly deranged skeleton from Austin who is a very compelling case for Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as a completely intuitive singer in every possible limb of his act: his crazy and unpredictable songwriting; his behavior on stage; and his “singing” on stage. The man is a walking study in schizophrenia.
So, it’s fun to count the man’s changes, since they happen so often and drastically randomly throughout the course of this album, so many times, that it’s almost as if he was patched together by a drunken robot that runs on magnetic tape. He’s almost inhumane, like a wounded train hobo, drunkenly moaning in the night.
It’s daunting, it’s dark, it’s disturbing at times but it’s always Yow. Drunk Yow. Stoned Yow. Sleepy Yow. Maybe even, “Wanting to Strangle Albini Yow.” Who knows. Who cares. His singing is great. He shares “The Damo Suzuki Effect” where a completely bizarre and uniquely talented singer jumps into a band that is complete sounding and who don’t really need a singer.
This is part of the reason everything the man does when he opens his mouth sounds appropriate. That and he’s insane enough to emulate raw fear on command. He conveys it with his grunting and his screeching and his swells. Just about everything else too.
Then there’s good ol’ Duane Denison. A man who’s face screams: “You’re lucky I’m way too fucking high to care about anything, or else I’d probably strangle you with my guitar strap.” A man of interest and certainly a man of stellar cohesion.
Within their dynamic, his role in the band is very contrary to our friend Yow. He pierces through anything the band does on every track in this album and sounds like a fire storm doing it. But he’s the wings of this band. They fly because of his ability to retain structure within his chaotic playing. The melodic edge he brings to this band gives the music its nastiest and grimiest edge.
“The Serial Killer Sound” as my dad commented. I thought more, Aztec. Then Comes Dudley sounded like Tenochtitlan to me.
Either way, Duane brings his bizarre look farther than meets the ear whenever he’s playing. On Nub, Denison’s guitar sounds like a chainsaw that suddenly found itself attached to a rocket that was cutting through the Mojave sky, and Karpis has a very ornate rhythmic and harmonic structure. It also happens to have the unarguably clearest vocal takes on the whole record. I would say: “The whole band really meshes on this track.”. But since that can be easily applied to every track, I’ll just say Goat.
The bands dark energy and constant hay maker attitude is affirmatively owned by Mac Mcneilly and David Wm. Sims. They stir around like a giant vat of oil, bubbling sporadically to release some of the built up pressure, but with a constant undertow spinning the entire room to make it seem as if things are going wildly out of control. They are maniacally entwined on this record and without their incredibly tight chemistry, The Jesus Lizard would just sound like a creepy meth head playing random riffs while his drunken friend screams and barks and yells incoherently and drunkenly dives into the “crowd” only to get up and continue.
Not without his beer, though.
Combine the psychiatric facility ramblings, the blisteringly melodic and sharp abrasion of the guitar, the impossibly tight lock-step drumming matched to the “T” with an incredibly murky and speedy bass line and you get one of the best records you’ve heard in a long time. You get a rethinking of what you thought music could be. You get it all.
Goat’s sheer capacity for slamming all of these things so fiercely together just boggles my mind. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to write about this stuff, especially with it playing. Let’s just be safe and say this record, after listening to it with intention, has commanded my attention ever since I laid ears on it (again).
I’m always listening to it, wherever I go and that trend doesn’t seem like it’s going to stop any-time soon. I would maybe considering going down a list of individual songs, but honestly, it’s rather pointless. I don’t feel like spending the next four hours trying to draw minute and demure comparisons. I feel like listening to Goat.