Teenage Jesus and the Jerks

  • Teenage Jesus and the Jerks
  • Teenage Jesus and the Jerks (Lust/Unlust) 1979  (Radiation Reissues) 2023 
  • Various Artists
  • No New York (Antilles) 1978 
  • Lydia Lunch
  • Hysterie (UK Widowspeak) 1986  (CD Presents) 1986 

Teenage Jesus pushed the anything-goes/anyone-can-do-it philosophy of punk about as far as it would stretch without breaking. Formed in 1976 by onetime CBGB waitress Lydia Lunch and saxophone/conflict artist James Chance, TJ & the Jerks went beyond minimalism and atonality into what Lunch proudly called “aural terror”; the band cranked up a musical death knell over which she screamed her lyrics of fear, pain and unpleasantness. After Chance quit to form the equally abrasive but funkier Contortions, the Jerks soldiered on as a trio, leaving their sonic bloodbaths on the No New York anthology and the two Bob Quine-produced singles (“Orphans” and “Baby Doll”) preserved on the 12-inch pink vinyl 1979 seven-song mini-LP. (The group also issued a three-song 12-inch on ZE.) The 2023 reissue, also on pink vinyl, includes the 12-inch tracks and the band’s No New York contributions. Throughout, Lunch ranks as one of the most creatively untalented guitarists of all time; her blistering walls of noise, while completely lacking in melody or taste, possess an unremitting atavistic ferocity. Never a band to waste the audience’s time, Teenage Jesus specialized in 20-second songs and ten-minute sets (which some witnesses still considered about nine minutes too long.)

The double-album Hysterie compilation contains an entire side of Teenage Jesus & the Jerks: a ten-track onslaught that pretty much recapitulates the group’s oeuvre, some of it in glorious live-at-CBGB sound. Lunch went on to numerous other bands and musical alliances. Drummer Bradley Field popped up briefly as a bongo player for the Contortions; bassist Jim Sclavunos became the drummer in two of Lydia’s subsequent bands, Beirut Slump and 8 Eyed Spy.

[Robert Payes]

See also: James Chance, Lydia Lunch