First off, how does it sound?
The answer is, not remarkably different than the original -- but this was always a record with a lot of space. It was recorded by Steve Albini, and remastered by the same. Albini is definitely not known for applying gobs of compression or boosting levels willy-nilly as many remastering engineers of lesser conviction are wont to do. "Goat" maintains its sonic integrity in every way.
It DOES sound bigger, brighter and more present, but subtly so. It also sounds eminently true to its original self. The bonus tracks are nice, it's good to have them all in one place, and apparently the "Lash" triple 7"/CDEP is not going to get the remaster treatment so you'll have to piece it back together from the various remastered discs. Two of Lash's live tracks ("Lady Shoes" and "Monkey Trick") appear here, along with "Pop Song," which has always been one of my favorite non-album tracks. If you have "Lash" and "Bang," you're gonna have most of these songs already.
The liner notes are a big fold-out with some period photographs, poster art, lyrics (typically unsettling, I kind of preferred it when I didn't know what David Yow was saying!), and some hilarious song-by-song notes.
Now, on to the album proper:
"Goat" is a defining moment for the nineties underground. The Jesus Lizard made their mark as a live band, and their first album "Head" along with the "Pure" EP hinted at their power, but "Goat" is where studio recordings really served them properly. All their sounds are dialed in perfectly and the songs roll one after the other with brutal consistency. There is an agoraphobic spaciousness and a claustrophobic intensity, contradictory and mind-blowing, with Duane Denison's spidery, needlepoint guitar sitting out entirely for wide swaths of the music (pretty unheard of in "punk") before coming in like some sort of punchcard-driven soul machine. Denison is one of my favorite guitarists due to this amazing restraint, his easy precision and almost jazzy phrasing. If comparisons must be made, he bears some tonal likeness to pre-Wilco Nels Cline.
The rhythm section of David Wm. Sims and Mac McNeilly is Denison's perfect foil, pummeling and pointillistic, supremely heavy but still swinging. McNeilly deserves much more notice than he usually gets -- he's as versatile a drummer as Vinnie Signorelli (Swans, Unsane) and stamps each song with a unique and galvanic rhythmic signature. Sims roots the whole affair with the sort of propulsive basslines that pull it all to the ground yet keep it moving -- brilliantly simple. "Goat" was where this combo hit its stride (I think Denison says this pretty much verbatim in the liner notes), capturing the sound and energy of their live shows so truthfully you can almost close your eyes and be washed away by the sweaty crowds of moshers.
"Goat" has the perfect A-side, a 5-song run that slow-boils at first with the loping "Then Comes Dudley," featuring a beautifully precise splattering of guitar notes, before "Mouth Breather" and "Nub" follow in quick succession -- each of them more than capable of being the album's single (actually I think "Mouth Breather" WAS the album's single), and in a wiser time they would have carried the college airwaves from coast to coast. "Seasick" stutters to a start before completely immolating all nearby listeners with its strangled and paranoid tale of "an ocean, a single idea." This song was one of my favorite openers when seeing the band live -- it would completely consume the venue and people would go ape! "Goat's" first half wraps up with "Monkey Trick," a song Yow describes as the most perfect song written about anything, ever. Though he's being typically mock-obtuse, he's really not that far off -- "Monkey Trick" is a fantastically paced, guitar-burned rhythm piece with a devastating cathartic payload.
Side B is a little less immediate, but only a little. These songs (with the exception of "Lady Shoes" -- definitely the most lyrically perverse) were performed live with far less frequency, but they're still great. The band clearly laid it all on the table when recording "Goat," there is no respite from the excoriating music or the flayed vocal cords, grunts, and tortured amazing sounds coming from David Yow's throat. Mike Patton was obviously paying attention to this record.
All in all, "Goat" is a classic in every sense of the word, from Denison's amazing, articulate blues- and jazz-informed guitars (he makes the term "angular" seem entirely spurious) to Yow's completely unhinged vocal delivery. The stark contrast of order vs. chaos, the unconventional-yet-unforgettable song structures, and the sheer visceral connection "Goat" makes with your gut reveals far more than arty/punky/proto-industrial/noise rock/whatever... it's just indisputably great. You need this. It's good to see this back on record store shelves, renewed and ready to singe fresh ears.