I Like Him Just Fine But He’s A Mouth Breather: Goat Turns 30

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The Jesus Lizard – Goat

Released March 15th, 1991 on Touch and Go Records

Produced by Steve Albini

Steve Albini, producer and purveyor of all things heavier than lead, once opined that the Jesus Lizard were the best band he’d ever heard. They were certainly heavy enough to attract the man’s attention: the Jesus Lizard had a near-industrial sound, where they weren’t an industrial band but they were as punishing and unrelenting as any given industrial band so they get an honorary mention. Their second album, Goat, is a perfect example of this: moments of unsettling quiet punctuated by pummeling noise sections driven by amped-out guitars and slamming drums, strung together with singer David Yow’s signature unhinged delivery. Each one of the band’s four Touch and Go records is largely the same, but Goat is special specifically because it has “Mouth Breather” on it, which is my favourite Jesus Lizard song. Most of the rest of the songs on Goat are impressionistic, finding uncomfortable or wildly inappropriate lines and repeating them. “Lady Shoes”, for example, combines aspects of scat and masturbation; one of the people on lyrical repository/explain-the-songs site Genius.com referred to it as “David Yow’s version of the aristocrats joke” which, honestly, is dead on. “Mouth Breather”, though, is about a specific event. Steve Albini had to go away from home for a while and got Slint drummer Britt Walford to house sit. Walford lost the keys to the house, broke the front door drunkenly trying to get into the house, and replaced the door with nailed-up 2x4s; the 2014 Breadcrumb Trail documentary about Slint details further that Walford would go in and out of the house through an attic window. Later he broke the toilet and piss water leaked down into the basement, where Albini had his home recording studio set up (“And in my basement, I found raining piss / and in my kitchen I found my friend deceased”). When Albini and Yow discussed the incident afterward, Albini said the line that ended up as the song’s refrain: “Don’t get me wrong, he’s a nice guy, I like him just fine, but he’s a mouth breather.”

The band would go on to release a few more albums and then break up in 1999; like most of their peers they got together ten years later and have been touring sporadically ever since. Goat, along with the follow-up Liar, remains the definitive recording of what the band was all about: mess and noise sculpted into heaving oceanic waves of pure hardcore rock ‘n’ roll.

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