The Jesus Lizard


The Jesus Lizard
(Touch and Go)
It's a familiar story: Hard-working indie band gradually scrabbles its way to infamy and success, lands a major label deal, gets dropped two discs into a three-release contract, disbands, and is memorialized with a posthumous collection of singles and rarities. Luckily, Bang is more than opportunistic vault-scavenging. In fact, it's a worthy Jesus Lizard epitaph, especially when compared to the band's anemic, critically lambasted Capitol swan song, Blue.

Emerging from such groundbreaking, obstreperous '80s outfits as Scratch Acid, Rapeman, and Cargo Cult, the Jesus Lizard broke up last year, almost a decade to the day after its first gig on July 1, 1989. Racking up 906 career performances, the band was arguably the most consistently riveting live rock spectacle of the decade, largely due to the onstage shenanigans of vocalist David Yow, a long-neck-swilling, suavely sinister Bukowskian hedonaut who had a fair degree of trouble staying on the stage, singing into the mike, and keeping his clothes on. But to his credit, Yow actually managed to survive the '90s, unlike contemporaries like GG Allin and Kurt Cobain.

Joining the Jesus Lizard's pantheon of four-letter titles packed with unhinged primal blat, Bang serves as a de facto greatest-hits release, front-loaded with the band's best work. The first seven tracks are some of the group's most essential, beginning with the infamous "Chrome" medley, storming through the brilliant juggernaut "Gladiator," and ending with the triple-whammy of classics "Wheelchair Epidemic," "Dancing Naked Ladies," and "Mouth Breather." Much of this disc will be immediately recognizable to anyone who frequented live Lizard debacles over the years, and there's plenty of the foursome's patented Birthday Party-styled drunken swagger, crossed with boisterous FM party-rock. There are also some odd surprises, including twocovers of songs by the German band Trio (and neither is "Da Da Da").

With many of the tracks on Bang culled from the band's easily obtained back catalog, the fistful of unreleased tracks and rarities might be a hard sell for those with a well-stocked Lizard library. Still, this disc -- arguably the band's most vital since 1992's Liar -- could be the closest we'll see to a retrospective. For the curious who missed this reptile when it stalked the Earth, or those who want to get a jump-start on the inevitable '90s-rock revival, Bang is a worthy launching pad.

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