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News & Features » March 2014 » Christopher R. Weingarten on the Jesus Lizard and “Boilermaker”

Christopher R. Weingarten on the Jesus Lizard and “Boilermaker”

To celebrate the release of The Jesus Lizard Book, Akashic will be featuring excerpts from Book on our website once a week throughout March. Today, we bring you Christopher R. Weingarten’s two pieces on the Jesus Lizard, both included in Book.

This Friday, March 14, the Jesus Lizard will be at BookPeople in Austin, TX! Not in Austin? Click here for full event details about upcoming Jesus Lizard events in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

JesusLizardBookWhen the Jesus Lizard came back for their show at the 2009 New York All Tomorrow’s Parties festival, I stood close enough to hear David Yow’s boots thunderclapping against the stage—so loud was his stomping that it was somehow audible over the rest of the band. I also heard Yow’s boots later that night after a particularly tangled stagedive. About that night’s performance, he told me in an interview for eMusic:

“I ran into Nick Cave in the hallway. We’re talking and he asked me if I was still stage-diving. I said, Yeah. He said it’s getting to the point where he’ll do a knee drop, and it’s easy getting down, but it’s not so easy getting up. I, fortunately, am not suffering from that. I fall over many times every night and don’t have a problem getting up. So . . . I’m better than Nick Cave.”

Here was a guy pushing fifty who still gagged, bound, and tortured the body electric. As an innocent bystander, I was less enamored to see this feat in action, and more immediately saddened that most of the young, fresh, able-bodied independent rock scene left in the Jesus Lizard’s wake (i.e., the stuff people my age have inherited) rarely muster a modicum of Yow’s enthusiasm. Whether contemporary indie is “better” or “worse” is subjective opinion left for message boards to decipher forever. But no one can deny one sad truth. Here’s a frizzy-haired bile-ball who is one gray pube away from an AARP card, and he’s still got more passion, more danger, more abandon, more sweat than any circa 2009 indie rock scene leaning on NPR hoodie rock and snoozewave reverb casualties.

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“Boilermaker” 0:00–0:01

The opening second of Liar is hands down the greatest opening second of any album ever recorded. It makes the introductory chord of “A Hard Day’s Night” sound like a chorus of wet farts. It makes Bobby Gregg’s snare crack on “Highway 61 Revisited” sound like a cat coughing up a paperclip. If rock music is inherently about sexual energy, “Boilermaker’s” inaugural second is the shock and shame of premature ejaculation.

Part of its charm is how hilariously self-defeating it is to put the climax of your album within its first second. To compare, note that the bridge to Nirvana’s “Drain You” comes like twenty-eight minutes into Nevermind—what are you guys, Genesis? If Liar were a splatter flick, it would start with the woodchipper scene. It’s getting cold-cocked without even seeing the face of your attacker. No matter what volume your stereo is at, it’s too loud.

Best of all, this onomatopoetic spittle-sprayer is barely a bark. It’s like walking in midbark. Bark as suffix. It’s opening the door to find the Jesus Lizard rehearsing (or worse) in your living room. Their first album released after the “alternative gold rush,” and here’s an abrupt jolt coming in midsentence, seeming to send the message, Uh, the party’s already started, where the fuck have you been?

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CHRISTOPHER R. WEINGARTEN is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone. His work has appeared in the Village Voice, the Source, Revolver, Nylon, the Guardian, and many other places. He is the author of two books: a study of Public Enemy’s iconic It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and the adorable social anthropology study Hipster Puppies.

Posted: Mar 12, 2014

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