One Track Mind: The Jesus Lizard, "Mailman" (1996)

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by Tom Johnson

“Mailman” is singer David Yow’s tale of a woman being stalked by some creepy bastard who likes to send her little love notes through the mail.

He wants to know if he can run his fingers through my hair
He also wants to know if he can hop around my hole
Wants to see my skirt rise abuxt my hairless thigh

This is the kind of thing the Jesus Lizard excels at — making the listener just uncomfortable enough that any laughter that the odd lyrics might encourage are questioned as to whether it’s because of the humor of them — or a nervous reaction to something disturbing, like when we laugh at excessive gore in a movie.

I question my reaction everytime I hear the song’s signature line — “He sure as hell can’t touch me.” Spat with such acidic disgust that you know the female persona Yow takes on for the tune says it more out of self-reassurance than as a statement of fact. The terror of the song is that nothing has happened — yet.

The only thing she knows for certain is that she doesn’t want the “Mailman” touching her — whether he abides her wishes is left unanswered, in fact, whether he even does anything more than send creepy letters is unknown. The song is a snippet of a “now” when the woman in the song receives yet another letter that one can only imagine has her darting about in fear, checking with shaky hands that doors and windows are locked, that nothing in the house has been disturbed, that this man hasn’t somehow infiltrated the safety of her home.

We never know anything but what she’s feeling and fearing while reading his words — how he wants to “run his fingers through [her] hair” and “hop around [her] hole.” No — all we know for sure is that “the word he uses, the thought he thinks is getting under my skin.”

One of my favorite musical elements of the Jesus Lizard is that greasy bassline that permeates everything they do. It leaves a slime wherever it slithers and in the case of “Mailman” it just makes an already odd little tune that much more perverse. But really, what Jesus Lizard song isn’t perverted and greasy? That’s exactly why I love them. David Yow wasn’t afraid to write more-than-disturbing lyrics, and the band wasn’t afraid to create music that perfectly backs it up.

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Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson has contributed to Blogcritics, and maintained a series of stand-alone sites including Known Johnson, Everything is a Mess and others. He studied both creative writing and then studio art at Arizona State. Contact Something Else! at
Tom Johnson
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