The Jesus Lizard - Goat - Classic Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Jesus Lizard - Goat

by Paul Clayworth Rating:9 Release Date:1991-02-21
The Jesus Lizard - Goat
The Jesus Lizard - Goat

The Jesus Lizard’s sophomore proffering Goat is a thrill ride.  An unseemly thrill ride.  Even an unseamly [sic] thrill ride, if you’ll permit my Derridean play on words. From the outset, the opening track, Here Comes Dudley, introduces a beat-driven bass line courtesy of David Wm. Sims setting listeners on a rickety carnival contraption, like one of those spinning teacups, that doesn’t take long until circling back around to subject its hapless hostages to a barrage of atonal assault rifle like tremolo guitar riffing punctuated by adroitly timed percussive grenade blasts to the face hurled by Mac “the Knife” McNeilly throwing it’s captive audience’s anatomy all out of whack.

Some get off the ride as soon as they can and immediately speed dial their chiropractors, or even their lawyers if they’re particularly litigious fucks. Some get off the ride and get right back in line to ride it again, because even though they saw that it was falling apart at the seams and threatened their very existence with its lurid undertones, and even though it made them sic [sic] and sore af, they perceived something else (perhaps facilitated by the psychopathic caterwauling of vocalist (aka Carny) David Yow, drawling [sic] attention to this death trap, his entreaties enticingly muffled by the pantyhose he was wearing to obscure his face and distort his voice), something, perhaps, genre-redefining was happening here...

Masochism and a susceptibility to Stockholm Syndrome are the right sorts of attributes one would need to possess in order to really, truly appreciate 'Noise Rock'.  What else could possibly explain someone listening to Today is The Day’s Temple of the Morning Star a million and a half times in one night like I’m pretty sure I did once:^? (in my defense, it’s rumored copious amounts of mind-altering substances were involved x_x) The influence of The Jesus Lizard can definitely be felt in Today is the Day’s work, however, the former are somewhat more playful, not to mention less abrasive and downright menacing than the latter. Absent are tracks about how Steve Austin sodomized your wife, and there aren’t any songs triple dog daring listeners to commit suicide on Goat like Temple of the Morning Star’s explicitly titled “Kill Yourself", at least not as far as I’m aware. Interesting that the very next song on Today is the Day's album, whose chromatic cover art shows a circular array of spermatozoa poised to penetrate a pentagram, begins with the line “Most Goats are Sheep”.  Well, I’m here to say that there is nothing sheepish about The Jesus Lizard’s Goat.  In fact, as some critics have pointed out (i.e., Austin L. Ray in his review for Paste), this album is a strong contender for the following anachronistic honorific: Noise Rock G.O.A.T. album.

All the Lou Reed/Velvet Underground fans out there, including myself, just gasped.  Yes, I too am frequently shocked at the crazy shit that comes out of my head, but in this case, I don’t think I’m out in left field picking daisies.  As far as provenance is concerned, it’s generally agreed that The Velvet Underground’s album White Light/White Heat was the origin of Noise Rock.  Fuzzed out guitar distortion, interminable droning rhythms, emphatic exploitation of glitches and production miscues to the point that the listener is compelled to check for scratches on their LP, oh and sociopathic andor morbid lyrics like a narrative about a numbskull romantic shipping himself to his imagined lover (think Jung’s imago) only to be inadvertently lobotomized on the receiving end. These stylistic elements constitute the lexicon of Noise Rock, and The Jesus Lizard's Goat demonstrates their facility with this lexicon.  In fact, they amplify it.  Like on the ironically titled Mouth Breather (I mean, if there ever was a textbook definition of a mouth breather, Yow’s gaping, drooling maw would be the appended illustration) we find some highly complex rhythms deployed to bop us around like rag dolls with x’s for eyes.  Whiplash signature changes and a premeditated aversion towards canonical chord progressions are woven throughout the album giving it a jarring, off-putting, and somewhat sinister vibe. But at the same time, it’s unquestionably catchy af.  Nub even has the feel of a ditty that might be sung in unison by a bunch barflies in honor of the phantom limbs that have replaced their alcohol drenched necrotized appendages. And the closing track, Rodeo in Juliet, has an opening passage with all the feels redolent of some of the most memorable epic ballads that really tend to get their hooks into you, but then, of course, it swerves off course into something else entirely (the difference one reiterated ‘f' can make). 

The thing about Noise Rock is that it’s somehow simultaneously archaic and avant-garde. In a way, its evolution recapitulates the evolution of music in general.  It is a dissipative structure that burst onto the scene and continues maintaining itself far from equilibrium by apotropaically incorporating elements from that dreaded equilibrium, the heat death it suspends itself over, the primordial white noise from which it emerged and always already seems to be breaking down into. The Jesus Lizard's deft handling of Noise Rock’s grimoire like grammar just barely manages to ward off the cacophony. It’s terribly difficult to understand at times because it straddles that fine line between profundity and utter gibberish.  The Jesus Lizard is to music as Paul Klee was to Art, or as Gilles Deleuze was to Occidental philosophy.  It’s highly doubtful that their predecessors would understand them, much less deign to acknowledge that their work belongs in the same constellation as their own output.  One can hardly imagine, for instance, a sustained dialogue between Socrates and Deleuze.  But it would be an interesting thought experiment to summon Deleuze from his grave and have him travel back in time to engage with Socrates in his own manner of dialectical reasoning.   I mean what would our world look like today if at the dawn of civilization there was a post-structuralist prankster going around trolling all the pedagogues? Leaving them out in the streets in their ruffled togas yammering on and on about how they c-c-c-c-ould’nt find the mainline of his argument.  Talk about a butterfly effect from hell.  Our present day civilization would be quite a bit more carnivalistic, to say the least.  The scenario I just painted would make for a highly intriguing moving picture, and The Jesus Lizard would be just the ones to compose that soundtrack.

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet
Related Articles