Restraining the Lizard

A (slightly) kinder, gentler, less naked David Yow resurfaces

Back in the day, when Bill Clinton was still president and World War III wasn't a foregone conclusion, a noisy post-punk band called the Jesus Lizard ruled the rock underground with its noisy guitar textures, ferocious rhythm section, and legendary live show. They had a singer named David Yow who had a stage move called "Tight and Shiny"; the complicated maneuver required Yow—who was often completely wasted and naked just a few songs into their set—to wrap his privates around a microphone. "It required some physical trickery," he recalls.

Yow now claims to be 73. This is total bullshit. But it has been close to 10 years since he violated a New York venue. The Jesus Lizard's last album, Blue, sold poorly based by unrealistic major-label standards for a band with a relatively small but insanely dedicated cult following. Capitol let the band out of its contract in 1999; the Jesus Lizard played one last show in Sweden and then called it quits. Now Yow is back as the frontman for Los Angeles punk and metal trio Qui—joined by drummer Paul Christensen and guitarist Matt Cronk—which unloads a stewing cauldron of ferocious noise, math-y post-punk, and straight metal laced with three-part harmonies. Cronk brings deep, rhythmic guitar riffs with some high-register notes thrown in for melody and texture, leaving plenty of space for Christensen's straightforward but dexterous pounding.

This is new territory for Yow. "The biggest difference between Jesus Lizard and Qui, as far as I'm concerned, is the singing," he says. "There are three-part harmonies where all of us sing. It's a real challenge. It's difficult singing this way, but once you get there, it's really rewarding." So Yow has learned to sing (and swim), and is trying a more demure stage presence these days. "With Jesus Lizard, it sort of got to a point where people expected me to take my clothes off," he admits. "I won't be doing that with this band." But "there's still some crazy stuff. I broke plenty of stuff with this group. I bleed from my head a lot."

Before Yow entered the mix, Qui beat a path up and down the West Coast as a hard-working guitar-and-drum duo. They released one album, 2003's Baby Kisses, that few people have heard, and never made it east of Detroit. But now, noise, metal, and punk sympathizers have flocked to them since Yow joined as a full-time member. "I suppose I could be a bit bitter about it, but there's no point," Cronk says. "If it's a problem, it's not a very bad problem. We get to work with someone we've admired for a long time, someone who's just fantastic, who's given us an opportunity to play to a much larger audience."

Cronk adds that Yow is perfect for Qui's dynamic: "The culture in the band works so well—he was a really natural fit." There was thus no need to change Qui's approach to suit Yow's talents. "We write democratically and collaboratively. He's made great efforts to do ensemble singing. He's trying something he's never done." Like remaining clothed, for example.


Qui play the Mercury Lounge October 9, mercuryloungenyc.com

 
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