David Yow has been a very productive fellow lately. On the heels of a well-received Jesus Lizard reunion a few years ago, the plainly reinvigorated singer/bassist/actor/designer has released a fantastic solo album, Tonight You Look Like a Spider. The album is difficult to unconditionally recommend to fans of Yow’s past bands (TJL, Scratch Acid and Qui) - not that it’s bad, mind you. To my ears, at least, it’s extremely cool stuff. It just delivers entirely different kicks than Yow’s fans are accustomed to. There are lengthy prog instrumentals, moments reminiscent of Scott Walker’s idiosyncratic later albums, passages of computer-generated speech a la “Fitter Happier,” and some pieces that are just so completely unglued as to exist beyond simple classification, but Yow’s famous torture-victim-screaming-through-a-ball-gag vocal stylings are not to be found in any abundance on Spider. There’s a great deal there to enjoy if you clear your mind of ANY expectation of experiencing the concise, visceral gut-punches the Jesus Lizard delivered.
But fans who still crave the Jesus Lizard thrill machine’s kinetic and oft-imitated signature sound aren’t left in the dark. Yow’s label, Joyful Noise, announced the impending release of a lavish coffee table book/7”/CD/DVD set devoted to the Jesus Lizard. In keeping with the band’s unbroken habit of four-letter titles, the book is called Book. (I asked Yow if the book would have happened at all had “book” not been a four-letter word. His answer was a laugh, followed by a swift and unequivocal “No.”) It’s impossible to properly review, as the release date is months away, so we went straight to the source and spoke to David Yow about what’s in it and how it came to be.
Johnny Temple from Girls Against Boys, who runs a publishing company called Akashic, approached us/me, probably over three years ago. I initially didn’t have much interest in doing a book. I didn’t see much point in it, seeing how long we’d been broken up. But the impetus was just Johnny asking us if we wanted to do it, and the more we talked about it, the more I thought, OK, this could be worthwhile.
One thing that was very important to me was that there have been a few things that have come out since we broke up that I didn’t have much hand in the design on, and with this, I just said “Well, I’m designing the book, I don’t trust anyone else to do it and I won’t like it if they do.” I designed it and had Henry Owings [Chunklet] help with the layout. There are bios, written by all four of us. Mac’s (McNeilly, drums), Duane’s (Denison, guitar) and mine go from childhood up to Jesus Lizard days. David Sims’ (bass) is more informational about the kind of stuff he’s interested in as far as recording. He also wrote a lot of notes about each of the recordings.
There are contributed written pieces by a whole lot of folks - two of them in particular I think make the book worthwhile alone. Mike Watt wrote a piece that is so Dada/Beatnik/Abstract poetry that you can’t even tell exactly what he’s saying. It’s sort of like looking at an abstract painting and saying “I’m not sure I know what that is, but I sort of feel like it’s this.” Also, Alex Haacke from Einstürzende Neubauten wrote a particularly good piece. Albini’s in there. There’s tons of photos, a recipe of mine, and David Sims kept an exhaustive list of every single show we played, so that’s in there, with who was on the bill, the date, the venue, and whether we opened or headlined. That part’s really kind of cool, it’s fairly small type and takes up several pages. It’s a lot of fuckin’ shows!
I would love for Book to be a tombstone, but with the recent Scratch Acid and Jesus Lizard re-enactment tours I’ve learned to never say never. It’s possible that there will be more Jesus Lizard shows. We’ll see.
Book comes with my endorsement. I wouldn’t say this if I didn’t honestly mean it - it’s a worthwhile thing. It’s pretty cheap too, considering how big and heavy it is, I think it’s like $18-$20. [Per Akashik, retail for the regular edition sans pre-order goodies will be $24.95, though it’s a bit less on Amazon - RK] It’s a good book. It’s conceivable to me that somebody who didn’t even give much of a shit about the band could find it worthwhile and interesting.
While the plain old book Book is due out in March, the pre-order version claims a mid-December ship date, and for $80 comes bundled with Yow’s Spider CD, a DVD containing 5 videos for that album’s “Opening Suite” by directors Adam Harding, Tim Rutili, Jared Varava, Todd Adam Phillips, & Jennifer Lynch (yes, David’s daughter), and a 7” signed by all four original band members, featuring never before released recordings of the JL songs “Fly On The Wall” and “Elegy,” recorded by John Loder at Southern Studios.
And if you’ve never seen the man in action, good lord, watch some Jesus Lizard where they excelled most - in concert.