You don’t need to be a fan of The Jesus Lizard or even the indie-rock genre to appreciate what this iconic band accomplished. They recorded seven albums in eight years, created dynamic and inimitable music, and played 1000+ legendary live shows. Their superhuman touring schedule is captured perfectly on the first page in a photo of the band’s tour van odometer, turning over from 99,999 to 00000. The story of this influential '90s band transcends rock memorabilia or memoir, and unfolds an instructive tale of artistic triumph in the delicate balance between commerce and art.
It’s the victory of the underdog, it’s David vs. the Goliath of the major label record industry. It’s an inside look at the creative and business choices artists in any field must face as they work toward that elusive stage that defines success.
Steve Albini, famous for his work recording Nirvana’s last album, In Utero, said this of the band: “When I think of The Jesus Lizard, I think of them as the greatest band I’ve ever seen, as the best musicians I’ve ever worked with, and as the purest melding of the sublime and the profane.”
The Jesus Lizard Book was designed by vocalist and artist David Yow, with most of the content painstakingly recorded by the band’s exacting bassist, David Wm. Sims. All four band members contribute their perspective and experiences, in a loose structure starting with the band members’ backgrounds, how the band formed, each studio recording, and their astounding performance chronology. This template is peppered colorfully and playfully throughout with concert posters by the iconic Frank Kozik, recipes by singer David Yow (his Chocolate Bourbon Bread Pudding sounds delicious!) and photographs ranging from backstage polaroids to professionally shot panoramas.
The epic shot from the band’s perspective onstage at Reading Festival – one of the largest rock festivals in the world – speaks volumes of what this band built up with sheer tenacity, inventive musicianship – and a sense of humor which draws the reader playfully into their world.
Anchoring the book throughout are well-written, vivid and poignant anecdotes and tributes from those whose lives they touched, and who touched theirs. Characters like Steve Albini, Mike Watt, JG Thirlwell, Hank Williams III, Frank Kozik, and Gang of Four’s Andy Gill all provide a full spectrum take on the band’s history.
The range of different perspectives from all four band members on the same record is telling of the creative process and compromises that abound in collaborative art. For example, bassist David Wm. Sims strongly touts Shot as the best album he’s ever played on, but the Steve Albini-engineered Goat is ubiquitously considered their masterpiece. But as a reader, you don’t need to hear the songs to appreciate the story – and Book delivers the band right to your coffee table loud and clear.
The Jesus Lizard Book
by The Jesus Lizard
2014, 176 pages, 13.4 x 8.4 x 1.2 inches