Jesus Lizard / Irving Plaza / January 25, 1997

FOREWORD: Noisy post-punk stunners, Jesus Lizard, were in town promoting their fifth album, Shot, the second to last studio offering these seminal Chi-town fixtures would make before breaking up. Though I regretfully missed openers, Brainiac, I had a good time drinking and goofing around with them post-set as I had previously at the Mercury Lounge with childhood pal, Scott Wagenhoffer. Tragically, Brainiac leader Tim Taylor was killed in a car accident later that year. A decade-plus, his bands’ solid rep still precedes them. Many bands have mentioned Tim’s virtues posthumously.

Jesus Lizard fans take their band very seriously – watching every lurking movement dramatic singer-screamer David Yow makes. With a commanding onstage presence, Yow sweats until he’s finally shirtless, urgently spitting out harrowing lyrics like a possessed demon in need of immediate exorcism. He occasionally stage dives into the flowing mass of bodies in front of Irving Plaza’s stage, working the audience into a frenzy.

Surrounding Yow at each end of the stage are guitarist Duane Dennison and bassist David Sims, the dynamic duo whose punctual, gut-crunching riffs manage to coalesce above Mac Mc Neilly’s persistently gritty drums.

But Chicago-based Jesus Lizard never allows the surging guitars and alarmingly distorted overtones to venture into mosh-induced hysteria. Instead, they create portentous semi-Industrial abrasions; relentlessly demolishing barbed tunes such as the terse, rubbery Mistletoe,” the demanding “Uncommonly Good,” and the rumbling “Pervertedly Slow.”

For over an hour, Yow maintained his lunatic fringe, intensifying each song with spirited performances. At times I thought Jesus Lizard should’ve at least temporarily changed the tone and tempo, but each time they came up with another captivating gem. And the generous encore gave the crowd time to unwind as the majority either pogoed or shook their heads up and down.

Fuck those close-minded commercial radio programmers for not forging ahead and discovering this truly audacious quartet, especially in the age of grunge.

Due to my own stupidity, I missed Brainiac’s set beforehand. But if they were as great as they were last February at Mercury Lounge I’d advise anyone with a taste for inventive post-rock noise-pop to indulge immediately. I will not rest until I see them play live again.

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