Let’s get this out of the way: Yes, David Yow of the Jesus Lizard and Scratch Acid is in Qui, and he’s in fine form throughout Love’s Miracle, the band’s second album (and first for Ipecac). But we mustn’t forget that guitarist Matt Cronk and drummer Paul Christensen were busting heads as a noise-rock duo for six years before Yow officially joined Qui in 2006. And a bitchin’ duo it was — after all, there’s gotta be something about this group that brought Yow back from his post-music-biz career as a professional photo retoucher.
The perverse guitar/drum grooves on Love’s Miracle aren’t so far off from what Yow-philes have heard in the past, but Qui makes the most of its bassless lineup, emphasizing looseness over the Jesus Lizard’s mechanical thud. “Freeze” flings a heroic middle finger of a guitar line out into the air, and there’s no bottom end to keep it from wagging as long as it wants. A cover of Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” uses Qui’s limited textural palette to turn the grandiosity of the original on its ear.
When Cronk and Christensen sing by themselves, they favor quizzical half-statements that skirt the line betwixt social commentary and smirking anti-poetry — it’s hard to imagine a post-Katrina epitaph less moving than “What makes the green earth turn brown?/ Fighting the sewers around” from “New Orleans,” especially when sung in surprisingly tuneful harmony.
But the two O.G. members of Qui are mere naughty schoolboys to Yow’s dirty old man, who sounds every bit as vile here as he did in his glory days. His first track, “Today, Gestation,” finds Yow as a tranny prostitute, exposing his junk and asking, “Hey, does this make me look chubby?” He just gets more inappropriate from there, even out-nastying Captain Beefheart on a cover of the Beefheart/Zappa classic “Willie the Pimp.” The older Yow gets (he turned forty-seven this year), the harder it is to pass off his perverted screeds as tongue-in-cheek humor. His yowling, frothy performances on Love’s Miracle are fucking unsettling.
The best tracks on Love’s Miracle match Yow’s wildman performances with equally manic music. Qui doesn’t always achieve that balance, and the album sometimes feels like it’s getting by on quirk alone. But when it hits, it hits hard. And massive props to Cronk and Christensen for giving us another opportunity to watch a balding middle-aged dude take off his pants in a proper live setting.