REVIEW: Saigon Kick – The Lizard (1992)

The reviewer formerly known as LeBrain comes out of retirement for this one-time-only event in collaboration with 2loud2oldmusic.comFor John’s excellent review, click here.

SAIGON KICK – The Lizard (1992, Rock Candy Remaster)

Saigon Kick was ahead of the curve compared to most of the spread of 1992 competition.  They were heavy, diverse, unafraid, daring, and extremely skilled.  Boston’s Extreme had similar talents but were treading different waters to Miama’s Saigon Kick.  Going for broke on their second album The Lizard, produced by guitarist Jason Bieler, Saigon Kick really demonstrated they were not messing around.

An opening anthemic bit called “Cruelty” cannot be called an instrumental due to the psychedelic, otherworldly shouts and yelps by singer Matt Kramer.  (Similar to the later work of Canada’s Paul Jago from the Ganharvas.)  This leads into a pounder:  “Hostile Youth”.  Skid Row may have been about the youth who were going wild in 1989, but in 1992, Bieler and Kramer were appealing to the anger of the next generation, complete with lethal, deliberate groove topped by silky smooth Beatles-esque “ooh-oohs” and a buttery guitar solo.  “We don’t like our homes!  It’s nothing but a joke!”

From there into a bass groove.  “Feel the Same Way” mixes singalong hard rock with a slightly psychedelic edge.  Sing along, you might like it.  Upbeat and different from the mainstream.  The aforementioned Extreme do come to mind on “Freedom”, with its funky bass backing and groovy tempo.  The trademark Kramer/Bieler vocal mix sets it apart.  A semi-acoustic number “God of 42nd Street” recalls the Beatles plain and simple, but it also captures them in a way that most bands fail.

A bonkers bit called “My Dog” verges on Faith No More territory, which is not a bad thing, it just proves something about diversity.  It’s over quickly though and supplanted quickly by a stompingly heavy groove called “Peppermint Tribe”.  The lyrics and vocals seem right out of the Dee Snider playbook, but Dee never grooved like this.  There’s even a bit of Smashing Pumpkins in some of the guitars.

At this point, the world stops spinning, for it is the stunning ballad “Love Is On the Way”, and it just feels like 1992 all over in some inexplicable way.  Hard to explain, hard to pinpoint, but the heart knows.  It’s lonely yet triumphant.  Its power is in its restraint.  Where it could wail away like the Scorpions on maximum hairspray, it sticks to an acoustic bass.  The vocals are the power.  Bieler’s solo has a rare touch that only certain guitar players can claim to have mastered.

From there, to one of the heaviest grooves:  “The Lizard”!  Drummer Phil Varone goes for something more tribal while Bieler and Kramer harmonize over the grinding riff.  This is truly Saigon Kick doing their own thing.  This band defies expectation, especially when “The Lizard” goes into Neal Schon territory on the guitar solo.  Things get grimier on “All Alright” which has a biting menace of its own.  Lethal as it may sound, the chorus harmonies really defy it.  Speaking of lethal, the guitar solo might be one of Bieler’s best.

A beautiful guitar instrumental called “Sleep” recalls Joe Satriani’s tender moments.  This serves as an introduction to the fine “All I Want”, which burns bright with an acoustic guitar and loads of cloudy, floaty music.  Naturally this must be followed by something heavy, so it is the choppy blast “Body Bags”.  This one was co-written by Varone, which might explain the tempo.  It cools off a little bit on “Miss Jones”, an excellent deeper cut.

Track 15, second to last on the original running order, is a co-write by bassist Tom DeFile and has an exotic, Eastern flavour.  Plenty of stringed instruments layered differently on “World Goes Around”, a late album highlight.  It has the feeling of a perfect penultimate track.  It takes things down to a simmer.  The surprise is the closer “Chanel”, like something from a barbershop band in the 1930s!  Unexpected yet delightful.  What a strange twist.  Check out the jazzy guitar solo!

Rock Candy CD buyers get the Beatles cover “Dear Prudence” as the final closer.  Very few bands get away with covered the Beatles, but it’s little surprise that Saigon Kick do it so well.  It’s actually a perfect song for them to cover.  I have a feeling they all owned the White Album.

Of course, Rock Candy aficionados know to expect excellent packaging, sound, and liner notes besides the bonus track.  It’s all there for you to dig in.

5/5 stars

You can also dig in to the interview that John T. Snow and I did with Jason Bieler in the summer of 2022!  We discuss The Lizard and much more.



  1. I was waiting for a “Crue like blow up the cessation agreement” for the one time collaboration. Lol.

    This album was way ahead of their time. Acts like Candlebox, Tonic and Matchbox 20 would take this kind of alternative approach to the top of the charts in the years to come.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve never heard this album, but I’ve always been interested in checking it out. Mr. Phil Varone of pornographic fame on the drums. Most recently playing with Jake E. Lee’s Red Dragon Cartel I believe. Their second album Patina was great. Recommended.

    Liked by 1 person

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