Pat of PENSEVOR Talks Favourite Record

Liar by The Jesus Lizard

This is my favourite record. I firmly believe this is also the best record ever made. I can find no fault within its 34 minutes. It’s a perfect distillation of precision engineered hardcore, and a masterclass in showing the rest of the world how music should be. This is the benchmark with which all other rock bands should be measuring themselves, and if they don’t have even 1% of the intensity that this record has, then those bands need to seriously reconsider the life choices they’ve made.

The band’s third album, Liar, shows they had perfected the recipe of telepathic rhythm section with the balance of just the right amount of flickknife guitar, sprinkled with the deranged hobo caterwauling of the one and only David Yow. I’ve heard a few people over the years say something along the lines of: ‘yeah the band totally rock but the vocals are too weird for me’, or ‘really like the songs but he can’t call himself a singer’. These people have completely missed the point; his vocals have ranged in style from classic punk sneer all the way to a hysterical high-pitched whisper, as well as utilising a ‘cupped microphone’ technique when he’d really want to up the ante and totally bellow at an audience. Only last year I was half-listening to ‘Great Balls Of Fire’ being played on the radio and I had that moment when the planets align and you get to see all of creation in one moment… There is more than a passing resemblance to the way Jerry Lee Lewis hollers and gasps his way through the melody like a sweating southern preacher experiencing a religious vision – proof, not that it were needed, that there is lineage of one degree of separation directly from one of the world’s best selling songs to the best record ever made.

The Jesus Lizard were often described as ‘the best live band of the nineties’, partly due to the confrontational behaviour of their frontman. On any given night, David Yow could lick members of the audience, climb on top of the bar and help himself to drinks mid-song and take off all his clothes and stage-dive into the audience. But none of this would have mattered were it not for the staggering musicianship of his band, and the songs, whilst clearly perfectly suited for performing live in sweaty clubs, also work as recorded documents.

Liar contains countless riffs, hooks, earworms, and lyrical images that combine to form an air of unhinged malevolence. If you can imagine the uncommon time signatures of Lalo Schifrin are fed into a blender with The Stooges, The Birthday Party, Big Black and early PiL you would get somewhere approaching the sound on Liar. Add to that, ‘Rope’ contains an amazing guitar solo that would not look out of place on any ZZ Top record, and the glacial ‘Zachariah’ would soundtrack a scene from a spaghetti Western (just before the gunfight). The cyclical riff on ‘Slave Ship’ would work as a motif for an evil hypnotist; see-sawing between the intervals of perfect fifth to diminished fifth and back again, all the while his antique silver pocket watch sparkles and swings in front of your face… at least until the lines: “I filled my stomach up so full / and I filled this cubby hole so full” are accompanied by the sound of the band playing what can only be described as dissonant thumps.

Liar is the pinnacle of brutalist hardcore. All unnecessary fat has been trimmed from the meat leaving a glistening slice of Texas-by-way-of-Chicago roadkill, yet to be tainted by the sun or vultures. The guitar tone is stinging, trebly, and fairly clean. The bass is liquid, busy, and full of grunt. The drums are never too showy or over the top, but hot damn they will turn on a sixpence from psychobilly blastbeat to retarded caveman bludgeoning. That seems like the undiluted spirit of real rock to me. You don’t need anything else!

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