1995: Teenage Jesus & The Jerks - Everything

Somewhere between the gash across your face and the black stitches that mend it lie Teenage Jesus and The Jerks. It's a place where microbial wars rage, and it's something that's so ungainly that people gaze at it. When the few pieces that compose Teenage Jesus' sound are merged, we're left with an atonal scrap yard that's thoroughly alarming in its suggestion of catastrophe. The band's complete contribution to the world is a collection of pieces that confront the most rancorous aspects of human nature. What they don't give us is any solace.

In less than 20 minutes, Everything does a nice job of encompassing most of Teenage Jesus' work from 1978-1986. The band, composed of the prolific performance artist Lydia Lunch and Gordon Stevenson as the only permanent members, was in perpetual flux. During James Chance's stint with the band, we can hear the bent Coltrane Sun Ship-era horns ("My Eyes") while other pieces seem so fleeting that they're utterly unintelligible ("Race Mixing"). The common theme that runs among all of the songs, regardless of the lineup, is Teenage Jesus' unwillingness (or inability) to articulate. Though rather than detracting from the music, this trait adds impact. All of the songs find Lunch bellowing like an angry teenage girl in art class; the one whose passion and perception far outweigh her ability to create anything. The music assumes an intangible quality for this reason; like looking into the negative space of a painting; the listener begins to imagine what isn't said and what isn't played. "Baby Doll" alters its tribal tempos without warning in this vain, as Lunch insists "I'm a little girl/ In your little girl world/ And I." As the listener ponders the conclusion to this fragment, she realizes that she's been hauled into Teenage Jesus' world where nothing is intentional, certain, or pure. "Orphans," the record's highlight, uses an unrelenting primal beat and scratching guitars to underscore a brutality that is merely hinted.

Like many bands, Teenage Jesus was largely a live proposition. Typical shows would clock between 10 minutes and a half hour. The songs here are mere interpretations of pieces that gained morphology on stage. Fans who caught these shows (Brian Eno was one) still complain that other versions of the songs were more poignant, more affecting. Songs, however, don't seem to be the point. Rather, the band offers unfettered imagery and the brutality of human consciousness. The vulgarity of Teenage Jesus and The Jerks' work was unique even among the flourishing punk scene in the late 1970s. There's nothing raucous or fashionable about the work found on this record. It's simply a collection of minimalist, sonic assaults, that have as much significance as the silence you hear when its done.

1. Red Alert
2. Orphans
3. The Closet
4. Burning Rubber
5. I Woke Up Dreaming
6. Freud In Flop
7. Baby Doll
8. Race Mixing
9. Crown Of Thorns
10. My Eyes
11. Less Of Me
12. Red Alert (Mk.II)

DeLorean

There’s a lot of good music out there, and it’s not all being released this year. With DeLorean, we aim to rediscover overlooked artists and genres, to listen to music historically and contextually, to underscore the fluidity of music. While we will cover reissues here, our focus will be on music that’s not being pushed by a PR firm.

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