Scratch Acid
Webster Hall, New York, November 7
by Stephen Slaybaugh

If you had asked me 10 years ago who would be the more likely candidate for a reunion tour, Scratch Acid or The Jesus Lizard, the answer would have obviously been the latter. Of course, both of the bands, who share common members in singer David Yow and bassist David Wm. Sims, have now regrouped for one more time around the proverbial block. But Scratch Acid beat The Jesus Lizard to the punch, playing a trio of shows in 2006 before organizing a string of dates this year.

Scratch Acid was formed in 1982, when Yow, Sims, guitarist Brett Bradford and drummer Rey Washam were still a bunch 20-something good-for-nothings living in Austin. They only recorded 28 songs, originally released on two EPs and one full-length, but all of which can be found on the posthumous comp, The Greatest Gift. At their two-thirds full show Monday night at Webster Hall, we heard most of those—21 of them, to be exact—so it’s hard to believe anyone left disappointed.

First, though, was a short set of innocuous guitar looping courtesy of the one-woman-as-band known as Noveller. Hardly revelatory, though hardly offensive. Following just a few quick mic checks, the headliners took the stage, with Yow commanding, “Alright, this better be good,” before they broke into “Mary Had a Little Drug Problem.” Soon a small melee of slamdancing erupted up front and it wasn’t long before Yow joined in, rolling atop the moshers’ outstretched hands. Nonetheless, Scratch Acid is a noticeably different animal live than The Jesus Lizard, and after years of Yow’s unadulterated maniacal behavior and dick-wagging, it look a little adjustment. It’s like comparing fighters: where The Jesus Lizard prefer to pummel its audience with a succession of quick jabs to the head, Scratch Acid is in it for the long haul, taking its time to beat the crowd into submission over several rounds.

As such, this was a night of nuanced cacophony. In addition to the mere fact of actually seeing this foursome together in the flesh, what amazed me was that it never once seemed like some tired rehashing of the past. I mean, Yow came across as gleeful running through nearly the entirety of the Scratch Acid catalog, but songs like “Mess” and “Greatest Gift” could have just as well been recorded yesterday as a quarter century ago. And the hardboiled stance of Yow’s cohorts was refreshing as opposed to the kind of cavorting one gets with the limpdicks currently trending.

After running through a set that was highlighted by proto-pigfuck like “Lay Screaming” and “This Is Bliss,” the band finished up with the caustic “She Said.” They returned for an encore that ended with two of their finest, “Cannibal” and “Owner’s Lament,” the latter’s tempo changes and tangled guitar lines showing that Scratch Acid was never one-dimensional. No, this short-lived band was as rare as they were at times brutal, and it’s fortunate that they came this way once more.