Willfully abrasive and atonal, the Jesus Lizard emerged in the early '90s as a leading noise rock band in the American independent underground. During the first part of the decade, the band 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. By the mid-'90s, the group's following had grown large enough to convince a major label, Capitol Records, to sign the band.
The Jesus Lizard was formed by Duane Denison (guitar), David Yow (vocals), and David Sims (bass), the latter two being former members of the Austin-based post-hardcore noise group Scratch Acid. After Scratch Acid disbanded, Sims joined Rapeman, an abrasive indie rock group led by Steve Albini. The recording and performing schedule of Rapeman was rather erratic, so Sims formed the Jesus Lizard with Yow and Denison in 1987. Originally, the group performed with a drum machine, much like Albini's previous band, Big Black. Albini produced the group's debut EP, Pure, which was released on Touch & Go in 1989; the producer would work on every Jesus Lizard release on Touch & Go.
The Jesus Lizard added a human drummer, Mac McNeilly, in late 1989 and he appeared on the band's first full-length album, 1990's Head. The following year, the group released its second album, Goat, which received positive reviews from mainstream music publications such as Spin. By the time of the release of Goat, the band had cultivated a large cult following among the American indie rock underground, based on both their records and their notoriously reckless, occasionally violent and vulgar, live performances.
Nevermind In 1992, the Jesus Lizard released a split single with Nirvana ("Puss" [Jesus Lizard]/"Oh the Guilt" [Nirvana]), who had just broken into the rock & roll mainstream with their second album, Nevermind. That same year, the band released its third album, Liar. In 1993, the group was relatively quiet, releasing only the "Lash" single.
Early in 1994, the Jesus Lizard released a one-shot album on Giant Records called Show, their first appearance on a major label. The fact that the Jesus Lizard released a record on a major label caused tension between the band and their longtime producer, Steve Albini, who was notorious for his indie-centric beliefs. Although he produced Down, the group's final Touch & Go album, he severed ties with the band by the time the record was released in the fall of 1994.
In 1995, the Jesus Lizard signed with Capitol Records and the band toured with Lollapalooza 1995. At one of the shows on the tour, David Yow was arrested for exposing himself on-stage. Later in 1995, the group recorded their major-label debut. The resulting album, Shot, was released on Capitol in the spring of 1996. Blue followed in 1998; in mid-1999, the Jesus Lizard disbanded.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine