Review ·

The album that closed the Jesus Lizard's golden age came in August 1994, just as the collective moping over Kurt Cobain's death was waning, and just as Chicago was starting to become the new center of the world of alternative rock (and thereby the international rock). The Jesus Lizard was finally starting to get the international respect that it had already earned over the previous five years. Ironically, it was a letdown compared to the previous string of remarkably influential albums. But while it lacked the force, fury, and mania of the band's previous three albums, it was arguably the most fun album they'd produced, the product of a band that was reaching the peak of its cultural significance and couldn't be happier about it -- even if the members were still hateful sons of bitches on stage.

 

"Fly on the Wall" and "Mistletoe" found the Jesus Lizard comfortable in returning to their roots as Big Black disciples, just as the industrial rock that the Big Black pioneered was topping the charts with Ministry and Nine Inch Nails. "Countless Backs of Sad Losers" may have been the first weak song the band had recorded in years, but Down picked up immediately with the blistering "Queen for a Day," perhaps the Jesus Lizard's most underrated song. "The Associate" and "Low Rider" may be the only tracks where the Jesus Lizard ever sounded like the Fall, and Yow and company may have been able out Mark E. Smith Mark E. Smith, too, if they had so chosen. While they were at it, "Destroy After Reading" and "Low Rider" sound like early Fugazi filtered through some kind Flipper/Cows/Drunks with Guns all-star post-pigfuck collaboration (which is not something that ever happened, but probably should have).

 

It was also around this time that the Jesus Lizard recorded "Panic in Cicero," for the soundtrack for Clerks. Again, the band was associated with a low-budget, underground movement that became a surprise hit in the mainstream. By the end of 1994, it was clear that the Jesus Lizard had reached a peak.

 

***

Down was reissued alongside the other Jesus Lizard albums put out by Touch & Go. Click here for reviews of the Pure EP, originally released in 1989; Head, 1990; Goat, 1991; and Liar, 1992.

 

The Jesus Lizard - Liar Casey Foubert/James McAlister Music for Drums

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