Sunday, January 11, 2009

"Superman" / Jucifer / Calling All Cars on the Vegas Strip

Imagine, for a moment, that Black Sabbath began not in Birmingham, England, in the late '60s but in Athens, Georgia in the 1990s.

Imagine , also, that instead of four struggling, working-class lads compromising the band, you had only a blond, five-foot tall, pixieish, Grit-waitressing, guitar-shredding, cooing -screeching Goddess and a maniacal demolisher of drum heads, and you would have The Classic City's own Jucifer.

Though the buzz surrounding Jucifer has cooled off a bit, and it seems that their window for stardom beyond select indie-rock circles may have closed, they are still putting out CDs and touring.

Back when this debut CD was released, they were the talk of Athens and seemed poised for greater heights. I bought the CD not really knowing what to expect, other than "hard", which is how they were most often described in the press. That, of course, is a highly subjective term in the music world. I was a bit skeptical of that label, being a big fan of metal as well, so I was totally floored by what I heard.

Jucifer manage to produce some of the (yes) hardest, fastest, most intense music this side of Pantera, and amazingly, they do it as a guitar and drum duo. As much as I love the CD, it's the live show where Jucifer shines. When I finally caught them at the 40 Watt, I can say without exaggeration, it was maybe the loudest show I've ever heard in my life. They are incredible to see perform. Amber Valentine looks like a doll on stage, all done up to the nines and often waring ridiculously high heeled boots. Her cool demeanor on stage is in sharp contrast to drummer Ed Lovengood, who, no lie, pounds the drums like no one I've ever seen. It's not so much that he plays them; he attacks them. Punishes them.

To Whit: Holy Fucking Shit!

Yeah, ninety minutes of that, and you are absolutely spent.

Here we have "Superman", one of my two or three favorites on this CD. This is, at it's heart, a spooky song, all minor keys and what not. It has a very, very quiet intro, just Valentine whispering over a tapped out guitar beat almost to the point that one has to turn the music way up to hear. Don't turn it up too loud though, because at :30 in comes the explosion. One thing I like about Jucifer's sound is the huge dynamic swings - Valentine can go from a whisper to a full-throated scream in a flash, and of course the volume and intensity of the music can as well. That's what happens at the :30 mark - that little tapped out guitar riff becomes immense, fuzzed out and distorted, and Valentine howls ("...cut you down to SIIIIIIIZE!").

Then, we get the main theme of the song at :44, the dark riff that is straight out of the Toni Iommi playbook, with Valentine screaming "SHOOOW...MEEEEE" over it. One part I love about the riff is the little syncopaed, descending notes at its very end (check :50-: 51 to see what I mean). It's a cool little touch.

"Superman" is all loud, crunchy goodness after that, save for an evil, sexy giggle at 1:44 and a really cool break at 2:21 in which a piano plays the ominous riff (making it even ominous-er) with some strange squeaking effects under it.

I was really happy to find a video for this song on YouTube; I seriously didn't expect that (and is that Athens' Oconee Hills Cemetery they are in in the video?). So have a go at it, and I would recommend picking the song up below for your own library. (By the way, the video is about eleven seconds off of the times I posted in the song above, for what it's worth)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

"Die, Alright!" / The Hives / Veni Vidi Vicious

Back around the beginning of the aughts (the double 0s, whatever - have we ever named this decade?) there was a very short lived "garage rock" revival in music led by The Strokes, The Vines, and these dudes, The Hives. Though it was a short lived phenomenon (and as an unfortunate by product spawned groups like Jet), it did produce a few memorable singles, most notably the Nivana-esque "Get Free", the brilliant "Last Nite" and a couple off of this CD.

I got hip to this CD from a co-worker who fancies herself quite the unearther of the latest indie hipster shit, and I have to admit she's pretty good for a lot of it (I mean, thank goodness she gave me the sublime Vampire Weekend a couple months back). She copied this CD back for me in '01, and it's always been an enjoyable listen. The songs are brief, noisy , incomprehensible, nonsensical blasts, (maybe because we're talking about a group of Swedes not exactly translating to English very well) but in the right mood it can be just what you might be craving. Plus, who can resist a White Stripes-like gimmick of always dressing in only two colors, in this case black and white?

Natty, yes?

I don't think The Hives ever had any bit of pretension about them; it really and truly seemed to be all for fun, and therefore pretty charming and hard to knock.

This song in particular is one of my favorites on the CD. I checked on the lyrics, but again, that's not really the point here. Something about money, CEO's, and a sarcastic view of how money may or may not make you happy. As you can hear in the video (linked below), they have a strong, dirty guitar sound that they mix way up front, overwhelming almost any other part of the band, most notably and especially the vocals. This song functions as most on the album do, with a riff and a simple two or three chord progression. There's a frenzied chorus, with the "Die!" and "Alright!" from the song title shouted without accompaniment at the end of the verse, which is pretty cool. My favorite part, though, is that very final chord after the song finishes. It's a dissonant, strange sound, but all the same pretty classic and a nice callback to the genre they've chosen to emulate.

I'm not a huge fan of the video, which I honestly hadn't seen until tonight, as I think this band doesn't lend themselves to concepts as much as live energy, but they get a good fake performance in there one the chorus hits.

No embedding allowed, so click heuh