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Head/Pure, Goat, Liar, Down

Head/Pure, Goat, Liar, and Down (Touch and Go)

Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., Nov. 6, 2009

Fun Fun Fun Fest Phases

The Jesus Lizard

Head/Pure (Touch and Go)

The Jesus Lizard

Goat (Touch and Go)

The Jesus Lizard

Liar (Touch and Go)

The Jesus Lizard

Down (Touch and Go)

With Duane Denison's garroted guitar lines – monster rhythms fused to David Sims' power main bass then overlaid with Caesarian-section leads – and without a live drummer (meet the programmable Alesis HR-16, "our drummer before Mac"), plus David Yow's institutionalized vocal tantrums, the Jesus Lizard's 1989 debut EP, Pure, exhibits a UK nihilism wracked with birthplace Chicago's then-burgeoning industrial machinations. "Rabid Pigs" jackhammers Trent Reznor's future "March of the Pigs" as "Starlet" bangs likewise and instro psychosis "Happy Bunny Goes Fluff Fluff Along" pulses construction site. Full-length follow-up Head (1990), joined on CD to Pure, staples Mac McNeilly to Denison and Sims in prog service of electroshock therapy for the muttering, snarling, screaming Yow. "I don't know how many different sounds can come out of a person," writes McNeilly in the series' new liner-note testimonials, "but I got to hear one guy make most of them." Denison, meanwhile, notes, "Head was the sound of a band finding itself." On Goat (1991), Denison's metallic scrabble in lead-off "Then Comes Dudley" and the tumbling bass and drum beating on "Mouth Breather" set up "Nub," the guitarist's slide ripping like an iceberg through the Titanic's hull. Sims and McNeilly open a coagulating vein until Yow squeals "rub it on me Duane," who in turn unleashes a 24-second freight train guitargasm rolling back the whites of Jeff Beck's eyes. "Seasick" never could swim, thankfully, while "Monkey Trick" strokes its rock-hard bassline raw. Side two keeps pace (stalking closer "Rodeo in Joliet"), particularly with five extra cuts. "Minimal, dissonant, abrasive, and loud," pinpoints Denison. His slide returns on Liar (1992), "Boilermaker" repeatedly gunning its back tire over Yow's detainee, while another greatest gift, scaly "Gladiator," fights to the "Nub." "Puss" gets its hackles up, "Rope" lashes lethal, and a thuggish cover of the Dicks' "Wheelchair Epidemic" as first appendix cauterize their LP predecessors. Goat set the table, Liar clears it: less manic, more monochromatic, and Romantic (Malcolm Bucknall's cover tapestry). Two years later, Down, the last Steve Albini production before these remasters – Matt Diehl's essay is the best of the four – takes the Austin-hatched act's previous freak show and makes art: string theory ("Din"), classics on command ("Fly on the Wall"), and Bucknall's stunning hood ornament (Falling Dog). "Queen for a Day" immolates Morrissey, "The Associate" chops atomic rockabilly with jazz angularity, and Sims' bass mummifies "Destroy Before Reading." Boon: "Deaf as a Bat," greatest missed. Quadrilogy, sums Diehl. Alien resurrection. (Saturday, 8:35pm, Black Stage.)

(All) ****

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