“And Jesus wept...”
...or at least will after one listen to the sonic rape of the Jesus Lizard’s Liar, an album that deftly generates a strike of lightning-fast instrumentals, a blitz of noise and vocal work akin to that of drunken incomprehension, thus equaling a nuclear reaction. The abrasive noise-rock unit that existed from 1987 to 1999 was a sort of alternative to Nirvana in that grunge era, even like their louder red-haired stepcousin: obnoxious, yet artistic. Liar is an album that winds itself like a propeller, and swings with the force of a wrecking ball. Most of the songs here posses a very likeable quality, despite that at first it seems like there is no differentiating between each track due to the David Yow’s vocal work being angry and unclear (at least without the lyric sheet that is thankfully included). With that said, this is not “radio-friendly”-sounding music. Instead, this is like a dance on the edge of a machete, delightfully fucked up and disturbing. Hell, even call it: “Forsakenly misanthropic dissonance that you can chew the floor and climb the walls to.”
However, despite this punished sound, like a hipster-whacking chainsaw revving itself to full-tilt boogie, these are not typical do-it-yourself, three-chord-playing punks pummeling their guitars in a garage. Instead, it is the sound of some finely timed and transgressive artists. So good in fact that go-to man Steve Albini, also the producer of this album, and of which has also worked with a large array of talented artists including Nirvana and the Pixies, once called this band, “Easily the best group of musicians I’ve ever worked with in terms of aggregate talent and ability.”
This is apparent on the opener, "Boilermaker," a song starting with a bass and guitar thump that along with its pounding drums sounds as urgent as a junkie dragging themselves into a pharmacy for a new fix. The junkie’s body makes the glass beakers rattle, and the customers stand gawking, as if all is not well in suburbia wonderland. Moreover, what makes it rise out of ciphers is the way that right before the beat would get into a drone at the 1:10 mark, the sound changes into a delightful mid-section ear-shattering chime, to then again go back into that raise-your-fist-in-the-air sonic thumping. It is in this grungy, raping squelch of singer Yow combines with the shot-forth noise-poetry of guitarist Duane Denson, drummer Mac McNeilly, and bassist, David Wm. Sims to create a portrait of death and decay, like that of a winter solstice.
While the next song, "Gladiator," gives you a raspy lupine-like howl of guttural screams, it is in fact, at song five of the 10-song album, that their definitive statement rears its finely crafted (abominated) head. This song, "Puss," and with a slicing bass that seems like a weed-whacker mowing down your legs from under you that is the stuff of fever dreams. It was also their one single, as they released it on a split with Nirvana's "Oh, The Guilt, which I believe got high up on the UK charts. "Puss" even has a creepy music video, though I doubt it was a “hit” on MTV.
The problems, however, are slight (again, I said slight so we can skip the part in which you send me hate mail, okay) arise after this pedestal song. It is here that the rhythm section starts to slow it down, so the weight rests on Yow. Now as much as I love Yow when he’s paired with the fast instrumentals, honestly, back then he was more of a performer that could match the intensity of his band. Yet by slowing it down the energy starts to slack. However, it must be mentioned that Yow is doing quite well with the “slower” songs in his current band, Qui.
So, in the end, Liar may be faulty, but when it hits the hipsters, it does it in a way that’ll make sure they’ll never forget that this is “the” bitch-slap by these evil maniacs. As simply when they were great, they owned, and when they were less than that, they were at least still interesting.