Out There

A pain in the ass
The Jesus Lizard
Capitol Records

The Butthole Surfers' new Electric Larryland is their first "rock" record, the psychedelic shtick contained and the avant jerking off restrained until you realize they're not screwing around anymore; Gibby and the boys are playing it as straight as they can, and they seem to have realized the joke's a lot funnier when the guy telling it isn't laughing louder than anyone else in the room. Same goes for The Jesus Lizard, Texpatriots who made the same leap to the same label and figured out how to buy in without selling out.

This isn't Liar, though, The Lizard's 1992 record that opened like a drive-by shooting and finished like a back-alley stabbing; by comparison, Shot is subtle and less visceral. "Thumbscrews" still packs the savage whomp, still yelps loud enough to render the words unintelligible until they become the meaning and not the message, but there's just enough noodling to cushion the blow. You don't notice the loud till the soft comes up from behind to smack you on the head.

But where The Lizard once hinted at the end of metal and punk and beckoned toward a gloomier (and, hence, better) future, Shot sounds not so different from Nirvana or a band like Brutal Juice, which also revels in gore and paints a beautiful canvas in blood. At least David Yow has figured out you can only yell for so long before someone tells you to shut the hell up; if you still can't understand why Yow is in so much pain, it's not for his lack of trying to give you a hint.

Heart surgery
Richard Thompson
Capitol Records

Disc one is electric, disc two is solo acoustic, and you've heard both before (if you're part of his cult, that is, and most likely you aren't). This is Thompson's stock in trade--the crafty and bitter pop songwriter on one side who doesn't get much love because he can't seem to give it, and the vengeful folkie on the other who hangs his doleful voice in a noose made of guitar strings. No one ever felt so good feeling so freaking awful.

This guy writes love songs like they were death threats: He's the suspicious, crazed lover who obsesses over photos of a lover's old boyfriends ("Old passions frozen in a second/Who were you holding in that fond embrace?") until he drives himself mad. He's concerned with "the death of a thousand kisses," the embraces that turn violent. That he can still work himself into such a frenzy over the same subject either means he's got serious demons or he just caught the right formula and never let go.

--Robert Wilonsky

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky

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