Tight N Shiny

I remember the first time I saw the Jesus Lizard. Must've been 1989 or so and they were the headliners of a mid-week show in a dank, underground dive called The Apocalypse--now a salsa-dancing gay bar called El Convento Rico.

I was there because I knew that the vocalist (David Yow) and bassist (David Wm. Sims) had previously been in the seminal Texas group Scratch Acid, a psychotic, vaguely gothic band whom I'd loved to death.

Scratch Acid - She Said

The show was one of the great ones--right up there with the Crucifucks show I wrote about on April 10. The songs were bass-driven, but multi-layered--just as Scratch Acid's had been. The band was tighter than fuck--however tight that might be. And David Wm. Sims scowled the whole time.

As for David Yow… Listening to his shrieking and yelping lo those coupla years, I'd developed a mental image of the man: long, thinning, greasy hair and a wart-covered nose. That, in the flesh, he turned out to be a midget, too, only heightened the effect.

David Yow Not David Yow
David Yow (left) and Robert "Willy" Pickton

At one point during the Jesus Lizard's set,Yow hawked-up a great green gob (big enough to have its own personality) onto the club's claustrophobic ceiling. He gazed with pride upon his creation for a few seconds, then gently guided it back down to the safety of the stage with the index finger of his right hand.

Later, during an instrumental, he pulled his scrotum out of his jeans, squeezed it tight in his fist so that his testicles verily popped out … and held the microphone up to them for the duration of the song.

The Jesus Lizard - Puss

In between, Yow paced back and forth, scowling, daring the fifty odd (sic) people in the audience to look him in the eyes. Eventually, one unlucky person found themself unable to avoid his stare. Suddenly, Yow started to smile. Relaxing, so too did his victim. Then, just as suddenly, Yow was scowling at him again.

It was a terrifying experience--even more terrifying than being front row center for a performance of the False Prophets, which is pretty fucking terrifying.

Of course, no Canadian band has ever had that sort of effect on me. Canadians just can't do menace.

As I wrote last week, Canadian artists like The Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, A.C. Newman, The New Pornographers and Stars have written some of the best songs I've heard in recent memory. But they're all soft. Soft and yellow--like non-Quebecois margarine.

I mean, Joel Plaskett writes a mean pop song, but he's not exactly striking fear into the hearts of the corrupt bloodsuckers and slime-coated bagmen who run this stinko joint, is he? In fact, those horse felchers would probably be delighted to have their daughters going out with the strapping, young Junior Boys.

Make no mistake, though--soft is not the new hard and quiet is not the new loud. They're completely viable options, sure, but not the only ones.

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