Jesus Lizard was formed shortly after the breakup of Scratch Acid, when David Yow relocated from Texas to Chicago and teamed up with Duane Denison (Cargo Cult). He also recruited former Scratch Acid member David Wm. Sims and early on they used drum machine, before adding drummer Mac McNeilly.
The band became well-known for their pseudo-industrial, abrasive sound and unpredictable and wild live shows (during which Yow usually stagedived into the crowd which carried him, while he continued singing).
Late 80s saw the band releasing two singles – “Chrome” and “Pure” (both of which came out on Touch & Go in 1989) – as well as a 1990 debut full-length “Head”, all of which featured trademark engineering/production work of Steve Albini (Big Black / Shellac / Rapeman).
In his book “Our Band Could Be Your Life”, writer Michael Azerrad pointed out that “on the Jesus Lizard albums Albini recorded, singer David Yow sounds like a kidnap victim trying to howl through the duct tape over his mouth; the effect is horrific.”
In their review of the album “Head”, AMG commented that “The brutal, bass-heavy slam of the music, testament to the uncredited engineering/producing abilities of Steve Albini, gives the whole record a punch that most indie rock didn’t have at the time, looking ahead to where similarly minded groups like Helmet (also produced by Albini) would end up soon enough.”
Their next proper full-length – 1991 “Goat” – brought Jesus Lizard even more recognition than its predecessor. Punknews.org website called it “a tour de force of brutality, angularity and fierce insanity.”, while AMG described the album as “a party in hell” / as well as a “demonstrative proof that there’s still plenty of fun to be had with a basic rock lineup.”
The band recorded two more albums before parting ways with Albini – 1992 “Liar” and 1994 “Down”. AMG commented that “Liar captures the Jesus Lizard in gloriously manic and muscular form, and if it sounds a bit less grimy and psychotic than Goat, this is still the musical equivalent of a ranting lunatic you would never dream of sitting next to on the subway”.
“Down” was described by AMG as “the last really vital album from the Jesus Lizard.” and while, according to them, it lacked “same degree of bone-crushing force and sweaty psychosis that made Goat and Liar instant classics” the band was still as powerful as ever, even if most of the songs on it took a little bit longer to sink in.
1993 also saw the release of Nirvana / Jesus Lizard split, which included Nirvana’s track “Oh, The Guilt” (later included on “With The Lights Out” box set and “Sliver” compilation) and Jesus Lizard track “Puss”, which originally appeared on 1992 “Liar”. Video for “Puss” was banned from some video channels and the song itself reached #1 on UK charts.
By the mid 90s, Jesus Lizard signed a contract with major label (Capitol), which caused Steve Albini to destroy all ties with the band due to his dislike/distrust of majors. The band also recorded “Panic In Cicero” for a soundtrack to the movie “Clerks” and made an appearance at Lollapalooza festival.
GGGarth (Kerbdog, Rage Against The Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, L7) took place of Albini for 1996 “Shot”. AMG pointed out that the album sounded “too similar to a conventional, major-label alternative hard-rock album with pushing rhythms and distorted guitars with clean attacks.” According to AMG, “Shot” lacked the spark of Albini’s produced albums and with the lack of musical progress on the band’s part, the album ended up being “a pointless exercise in treading water.”
Their swansong – 1998 “Blue” – was produced by Andy Gill (Gang Of Four) – and it featured drummer Jim Kimball, who replaced the long-time band member Mac McNeilly. AMG pointed out that the first that leaps out at the listener about the album is clarity of Yow’s vocals. AMG also commented that the band was putting an additional emphasis on melody on the album and, in general, “Blue” proved Jesus Lizard to be one of the most challenging rock bands of the 90s.
The following year the band announced their break-up and they played their last show at the Umea Open festival in Sweden on March 27, 1999. Same year saw Touch & Go producing a posthumous compilation of Jesus Lizard EPs and singles called “Bang”.
After the split, Duane Denison went on to play with Tomahawk (along with Mike Patton from Faith No More and John Stanier from Helmet) and he was also involved in Denison-Kimball Trio (which was actually a duo). He also formed USSA together with Paul Barker from Ministry. David Wm. Sims works as an accountant, while David Yow worked as a graphic designer before joining Los Angeles band Qui.
2009, however, saw the original line-up reuniting for a whole number of shows and festivals like Pukkelpop (Belgium), FunFunFun Fest and All Tomorrow’s Parties. Touch & Go released a box set called “Inch”, which collected the band’s singles and is planning to re-release “Pure” EP, as well as “Head”, “Goat”, “Liar” and “Down” albums.
David Yow (Pigface, Qui)
David Sims (Botanica, Love Interest, Rapeman)
Duane Denison (Cargo Cult, Denison Kimball Trio, Firewater, Pigface, Tomahawk, USSA)
Jim Kimball (Denison Kimball Trio, Firewater, Laughing Hyenas, Mule, Spinanes)
Mac McNeilly (86, Phantom 309)
Chrome 7″ (Touch And Go, 1988)
Pure 12″ (Touch And Go, 1989)
Head LP (Touch And Go, 1990)
Mouthbreather 7″ (Touch and Go, 1990)
Goat LP/CD (Touch and Go, 1991)
Gladiator / Seasick 7″ (Touch and Go, 1992)
Gladiator / Boilermaker 7″ (Insipid Vinyl, 1992)
Head/Pure CD (Touch and Go, 1992)
Liar LP / CD (Touch and Go, 1992)
Wheelchair Epidemic 7″ (Touch and Go, 1992)
Fly On the Wall 7″ / CD-Single (Touch and Go, 1993)
Lash 3X7″ / CD-EP (Touch and Go, 1993)
Puss / Oh, The Guilt (Split with Nirvana) 7″ / maxi-single / cassette (Touch and Go, 1993 / Insipid Vinyl, 1993)
CBGB’s 20th Anniversary Sampler CD (Giant Records, 1994)
Down LP / CD (Touch and Go, 1994)
Live at Brixton Academy 7″ (Dirter Promotions / Fear And Loathing, 1994)
Show LP/ CD (Giant Records, 1994)
Sho(r)t VHS (Capitol Video, 1996)
Shot LP /CD (Giant Records1996)
Thumper CD (Capitol Records. 1996)
The Jesus Lizard EP (Jetset Records, 1997)
Blue LP / CD (Capitol Records, 1998 / Jetset Records, 1998)
Untitled EP (Jetset Records, 1998 )
Bang CD (Touch And Go, 2000 )
Inch 9×7″ (Touch And Go, 2009)
“Pop Song” on Dope, Guns And F—ing In The Streets Volumes 4-7 (Amphetamine Reptile, 1991)
“Nub” on Mesomorph Enduros (Big Cat UK, 1992)
“Whirl” on Volume Five (Volume, 1992)
“Monkey Trick” on WMBR Presents: Clear The Room! 7″ (No Life Records, 1992)
“Gladiator” on Altered States Of America (Lime Lizard, 1993)
“Boiler Maker” on Gimme 5 (Melody Maker Magazine, 1994)
“Panic In Cicero” on Clerks – Music From The Motion Picture (Chaos Recordings, 1994)
“Fly On The Wall” on Cortex (Cortex, 1994)
“Then Comes Dudley” on Amateur Soundtrack (Matador / Atlantic, 1995)
“Nub” on Mind The Gap #8 (Gonzo Circus Magazine, 1996)
“Shut Up” on Soiled Gold Hits (EMI, New Zealand, 1996)
“Mailman” + “Good Riddance” on Steal This (Capitol, 1996)
“Uncommonly Good” on The Lounge Ax Defense And Relocation Compact Disc (Touch And Go, 1996)
“More Beautiful Than Barbie” on The Story So Far… (Vox Magazine, 1996)
“Poscoital Glow” on Rock Sound #21 (Rock Sound Magazine, 1998)
“Gladiator” on Rock Sound #39 (Rock Sound Magazine, 2000)
“Mailman” on See Hollywod And Vine (Capitol Records, unknown year)
Michael Azerrad – Our Band Could Be Your Life
Henry Owings / Patton Oswalt – The Rock Bible
Nigel Williamson – The Best Music You’ve Never Heard 1
Piero Scaruffi – A History Of Rock Music 1951-2000
Jim DeRogatis – Milk It!