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The Jesus Lizard

The Jesus Lizard performing at The London Forum 2009-05-11
Background information
Origin Austin, Texas, United States
Genres Alternative rock, noise rock, post-punk
Years active 1987–1999
Labels Touch and Go, Capitol
Associated acts Scratch Acid
Th' Legendary Shack Shakers
David Yow
David Wm. Sims
Duane Denison
Mac McNeilly
Former members
Jim Kimball
Brendan Murphy

The Jesus Lizard is an American alternative rock band formed in 1987 in Austin, Texas, and based in Chicago, Illinois from 1989 to 1999. The band reunited in 2008.



Formation and the Touch and Go years (1987–1994)

The band began in Austin, TX, when guitarist Duane Denison recruited David Yow, formerly of Scratch Acid, to play bass on some songs he wanted to record. Yow suggested that he sing and have former Scratch Acid bassist David Wm. Sims play bass instead. The resultant group took its name from a common nickname for the basilisk, a type of lizard that can run on water. The trio rehearsed several times in Austin with a drum machine. Yow and Sims moved to Chicago in 1988 and Denison followed suit the next year.

Their first EP, Pure, was produced by Steve Albini and released by Touch & Go Records in 1989. It is the only record by the band that uses a drum machine. Drummer Mac McNeilly was recruited to the lineup and the band played its first live show on July 1, 1989. Albini produced the band's next four Touch & Go albums – Head, Goat, Liar, and Down. During this era the group also released a live record, Show, and a split single with Nirvana, Puss/Oh, the Guilt.

In 1994, Yow tried out his acting chops in Jim Sikora's independent feature Walls in the City, with soundtrack by Denison's side project, Denison Kimball Trio, released on Skin Graft Records.

The Capitol years and breakup (1995–1999)

The Jesus Lizard signed to Capitol Records in 1995. The band also recorded the song "Panic in Cicero" for the Clerks soundtrack, and made appearances at Lollapalooza. Impressed by his work on The Melvins's Stoner Witch album, the band hired producer Garth Richardson to record their next record, Shot, in 1996. While rumors that Albini refused to work with the band due to their involvement with a major label persisted, both Albini and the group have stated this to be false.[1]

McNeilly left the band in late 1996,[2] citing exhaustion from touring and the desire to spend more time with his family.[3] He was replaced by Jim Kimball, of the Denison Kimball Trio and Mule.

After more heavy touring in 1997, this lineup made its recorded debut with 1998's self-titled EP, their only record whose title is not a four-letter word, on Jetset Records. The EP featured production and engineering by Andy Gill of Gang of Four, John Cale, and Jim O'Rourke. Later that year, the band released the album Blue, also recorded by Gill. A departure for the band, the record explored some of the more experimental instincts hinted at on earlier songs like "Happy Bunny Goes Fluff-Fluff Along" on Pure.

In August 1998 Kimball left the group due to 'irreconcilable differences of opinion.'[4] He was replaced by Chicago-based drummer Brendan Murphy, formerly of the Wesley Willis Fiasco, and the band embarked on several more months of heavy touring. The final gig of their initial career was at the Umeå Open festival in Umeå, Sweden, on March 27, 1999. After being dropped from Capitol Records mid-contract, the band announced its split the following June.

Post-breakup (2000–2007)

In 2000, Touch & Go issued a CD of 7" tracks and rarities called Bang. After the split some of the members moved on to other bands. Denison plays with Tomahawk, continues to play with Kimball in the Denison Kimball Trio (which is actually a duo), and backed up Hank Williams III on a few tours. In 2006 he formed U.S.S.A. with ex-Ministry bassist Paul Barker.

In 2006, Yow and Sims reformed Scratch Acid, along with original members Rey Washam (Rapeman, Ministry) and Brett Bradford for the Touch and Go Records 25th Anniversary Festival in Chicago. A week before the Touch and Go Festival, the reunited Scratch Acid played to a sold-out crowd at Emo's in their hometown of Austin.

McNeilly played drums in P.W. Long's Reelfoot recording "Push Me Again" and toured with Long. McNeilly also continued to play along with his wife in their band Mouse. He recorded with Steve Albini in February 2007 for Denison's Fuzz label mate Greg Garing. Sims relocated to New York City and now works as an accountant. He occasionally records songs as his solo project Dangerpuss, which he releases as MP3s on his blog. Yow moved to Los Angeles to work in graphic design for an advertising agency. He has joined the Los Angeles band Qui.

Reunion (2008–present)

The Jesus Lizard reformed in 2008, playing a number of shows the next year with their classic line-up. These shows included appearances at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, and All Tomorrow's Parties music festivals in England and New York[5].

On October 6, 2009, all of the band's Touch and Go studio albums were re-released with improved sound and bonus tracks. All the albums were remastered by Albini and Bob Weston and have new liner notes and gatefold artwork.[6]

Sound and influence

While never finding much mainstream success, the Jesus Lizard have been called "a leading noise rock band in the American independent underground…[who] turned out a series of independent records filled with scathing, disembowelling, guitar-driven pseudo-industrial noise, all of which received positive reviews in underground music publications and heavy college-radio play."[7]

Their music is a scathing mix of piercing guitar, machine-like drums, propulsive bass guitar, and psychotic vocals. Denison's stinging guitar often serves more as texture or coloring than as a melody instrument, while the rhythm section's stops and starts are simultaneously precise and brutal. Yow's frenzied, often incoherent vocals are unique, unlike anything past or present. David Sprague suggests that "Yow's disjointed couplets" are reminiscent of a "preacher speaking in tongues."[8] Albini typically kept vocals "low in the mix," or much less prominent than was typical of rock and roll recordings. In Our Band Could Be Your Life, Michael Azerrad writes that "on the Jesus Lizard albums Albini recorded, singer David Yow sounds like a kidnap victim trying to howl through the duct tape over his mouth; the effect is horrific."[9] While appreciated as a unique vocalist, Yow has been more often cited for his confrontational antics on-stage, often leaping into the crowd or taking off his clothes.


Current members

Past members

  • Jim Kimball – drums (1996–1998)
  • Brendan Murphy – drums (1998–1999)


Studio albums

Live albums

  • Show (1994, Collision Arts)


  • Bang (2000, Touch and Go)
  • Inch (2009, Touch and Go)



  • The Jesus Lizard - Live (Music Video Distributors 2007)

Chart positions


Year Album Chart Position
1996 Shot Heatseekers (US) 28


Year Single Chart Position
1993 "Puss/Oh, the Guilt" (split single with Nirvana) UK Singles Chart[10 ] 12


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ ATP Website "[1]" Retrieved February 27, 2009.
  6. ^ Jesus Lizard Remasters Retrieved October, 2009.
  7. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "The Jesus Lizard". Allmusic. Retrieved June 5, 2005.
  8. ^ Sprague, David. "JESUS LIZARD". Trouser Press, 2007. Retrieved on March 4, 2009.
  9. ^ Azerrad, Michael. Our Band Could Be Your Life. Little Brown and Company, 2002. ISBN 0-316-78753-1
  10. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 282. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.  

External links

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