Evil Bitterness might be St. Jayne's debut, but the guys in this garage rock group go way back. Singer Chris Yarmock, guitarist Gary Lupico, and bassist Russell Sherman Jr. played together over two decades ago in the punk band the Kneecappers. Lupico and Sherman then teamed up with drummer Jeff Benik to form California Speedbag in the '80s. By the late '90s, Lupico, Sherman, and Benik had coaxed Yarmock, who had given up singing to pursue other arts -- namely, prose, poetry, and painting (one of his works appears on the cover of Evil Bitterness) -- out of retirement to form St. Jayne. In 1998, the foursome (with the help of keyboardist Colin Wood) started recording at Lupico's Cleveland-based Interzone Studios.
The cover art itself, a depiction of actress Jayne Mansfield engulfed in primitively sketched flames, suggests the demonology at work here. With gruff, snarling vocals, Yarmock sounds possessed, and he comes off as a cross between David Yow and Iggy Pop. He laughs like a goblin on "Bad Trip," mumbles about motherfuckers in "Wild on a Leash," and whines about getting his beer back in a hidden, untitled track. His garbled vocals are often hard to take, but the musicianship is solid, as the band plays with the right mixture of finesse and aggression. The twangy guitars in "Everything's Haunted" contrast nicely with Yarmock's howling, and the group sustains a high level of energy throughout the 13-minute title track.