Teenage Jesus & the Jerks

Shut Up and Bleed

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When punk rock first began making itself heard in New York and London in the mid-'70s, more than a few old guard rock critics and musicians (the sort who regarded Sgt. Pepper's as rock's greatest cultural touchstone) angrily dismissed the new music as mindless, pointless caterwauling from malcontented delinquents who couldn't play their instruments. Listening to Lydia Lunch's first forays into the underground music scene as leader of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, it's not hard to imagine she and her co-conspirators set out to create a band that would live up to every criticism thrown at the first wave of punk. Teenage Jesus and the Jerks played music that was raw, minimal, and intentionally abrasive, abandoning conventional melodies in favor of a violent, rhythmic assault dominated by slashing, out of tune guitars, simplistic drumming, and in their earliest recordings, bleating saxophone from a pre-Contortions James Chance. But if Lunch's fierce howl was intended to drive off all but the bravest listeners, the ripsaw impact of her fevered tales of psycho-sexual torture were not likely to be forgotten by anyone who had the nerve to sit through them. Like most of their contemporaries on the New York no wave scene, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks were not destined to last long, and Shut Up and Bleed contains everything the group released in their less than two years together, along with some previously unissued live material and a few tracks from another Lunch vehicle of the day, the equally volatile Beirut Slump (which featured Lunch on guitar and Bobby Swope on vocals). It says a lot about this material that after more than three decades of noise rock that's followed in this group's footsteps, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks haven't lost their ability to confound and disturb; these recordings are the musical equivalent of a blunt instrument aimed at your forehead, and don't think for a moment this stuff wasn't meant to hurt. Shut Up and Bleed is brutal and uncompromising music not meant for the faint of heart, and there's no doubt that's exactly what both bands had in mind; this is a vital document of New York's no wave scene at its purest and most devastating.

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