Thursday, December 3, 2009

Live: Jesus Lizard

When: 11/17
Where: Irving Ballroom

To be honest, I missed most of the Jesus Lizard set at Irving Ballroom for reasons I won't go into. That really sucks because I love Jesus Lizard and also because I bought a ticket and it wasn't cheap. And also because I saw the set list and I know they played a lot of my favorite songs from the first three albums before I arrived. Nevertheless, I caught enough of the show to have something to say (surprise!) so here goes...

Jesus Lizard has always been a nasty, ugly band. Their music epitomizes the best of the Midwest's golden era - that post-hardcore, pre-thrashy alt metal window where bands like Big Black, Naked Raygun, the Effigies and Killdozer mixed punk's DIY ethos and teenage-boy aggression with far more sophisticated musical ideas. Although the bands of this scene have vastly varied sounds, most of the best pushed the extremes of weight and volume while at the same time learning from the UK's post-punk grooves. The result was music simultaneously more caustic than most punk or metal and with more melodic and rhythmic flow.

Jesus Lizard certainly embraces this. Their noise rock influences make their sound jarring and asymmetrical. Over the distorted, two-ton bassy riffs, David Yow crafts equally bilious, hateful vocals.

So what of their live show now? Even the best reunited bands seem to lose a little excitement when they reach a certain age. But not Jesus Lizard. Apologies to average-looking 50-year-olds everywhere, but having a half-naked, pale, slightly flabby, sweat-drenched one repeatedly screaming "MOTHERFUCKER" at you is even more disturbing than having a sweaty 27-year-old repeatedly screaming "MOTHERFUCKER" at you. Jesus Lizard is about making people uncomfortable, and though Yow and company aren't inherently ugly, they embrace ugliness as an ultimate unsettling aesthetic. Sonically and visually, they'll send most people running for the door, and those people are running faster than ever. And that's why we love this band.


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