“Matt Cronk’s office,” urps David Yow in his best temporary receptionist’s voice: hungover, but increasingly jolly thanks to a little hair o’ the dog. The notorious one-time lead vocalist of ’90s noise/post-punk legends The Jesus Lizard is doing well these days, living in Los Angel-eez, working in graphic design and playing with Qui, the band guitarist/vocalist Cronk founded six years ago. But, as he prepares to board Qui’s van, he says, “I’m fucked up.”
It was a long night in San Francisco, he ’splains, and although the show went off without a hitch, the after-party (read: Yow’s post-show binge-drunk) got him into some trouble with his bandmates. “I’m in the doghouse,” Yow says, failing to elaborate. There is no need.
With The Jesus Lizard, Yow earned a reputation. Certainly he was one of post-punk’s best vocalists, possessing a puissant, tuneful yowl. He’s also one of its greatest frontmen, in that he could work a crowd into frenzy with just the music, then put a cherry on top. Those cherries, though, were hirsute fruit, scrotal tricks called the Hairy Tangerine and the Tight & Shiny. Other times, he might just bleed, or barf, onstage. It depended on the night and his mood—nobody’s monkey, Yow refused to perform on command. “I don’t take instruction.”
Anyway, the tradition continues in Qui. In Austin, Texas, last March, Qui was playing a South by Southwest showcase, and Yow got into a little trouble. Actually a very nice man, but well aware of his proclivities, Yow sounds regretful when reminded of the event. “Oh. Oh, my. Yes.” Cronk, however, tells the story eloquently and with gusto.
“This dumb twat in the front row,” he complains, “took exception to something David had to say, bitchin’ at us and giving him the finger and shit. And then she had the fuckin’ gall to ask for a beer, to which David responded, ‘No I’m not gonna give you a beer because you flipped me off, you cunt.’ And she punched him in the face.”
Repeatedly, they say, and there was blood. Yow was OK with it; felt he deserved it. But here we fall into a trap. As it was with The Jesus Lizard, it’s easy to focus on the Legend of David Yow and forget that, musically, the Lizard, like Wu-Tang Clan, ain’t nothin’ to mess with. Beneath their darkly jaunty rumble was some truly beautiful music. “As it was recently pointed out,” Yow says, “if you play a lot of Duane’s [guitarist Denison] parts on acoustic guitar, they’re really beautiful.” Likewise, says Yow of his vocals, “I like to think that there were some dynamics.”
It’s tempting to regard Qui similarly. Though not as abrasive as The Jesus Lizard sometimes was, Qui’s sound as of their first Yow-inclusive album, Love’s Miracle (Ipecac), is thunderous and unhinged, a drum-and-guitar tantrum in tandem with Yow’s, Cronk’s or drummer Paul Christensen’s vocals. Between the three voices, they cover Morrissey’s blue-blooded, broken-hearted boy croon; Elvis’ hubba-twang; dirty old man with teeth knocked out; Mel Blanc; upchuck and more. Oddly, but maybe not-so, it’s all very musical: the songs are songs—not amalgamations of weird people and noises—and even the herky-jerky moments are catchy. One might go so far as to call it noise-symphonic.
But let’s not get too analytical. After all, it’s just rock & roll. For Yow, being in Qui affords him a chance to scratch his musical itch, have some fun. If there’s any real benefit from playing in the band, it’s not cash and prizes or a chance to show off his stuff: It’s life lessons—with no homework. “Before we decided that I was gonna be in this singing group, I was aware that we work well together. They have a lot of patience, and they’re teaching me things that I didn’t know before and, so … yeah. What?”
QUI @ The Urban Lounge, 241 S. 500 East, Thursday, Sept. 20, 10 p.m. 24Tix.com cw