Jucifer makes music like the last rockers on Earth
I can’t hear this article. Jucifer bought the rights to my cochlear nerve last night, when they switched on 13 jury-rigged amplifiers and hit a power chord.
“MARSHALLS CHANGED ROCK AND ROLL JUST AS MUCH AS ANYBODY INSTRUMENTAL.”
So said Lemmy in the infamous Mojo article “Grateful Deaf: The Loudest Bands of All Time.” Mojo went on to proclaim 60s LSD nutjobs Blue Cheer their winner. But all of their finalists had one thing in common: a love for – almost a fascination with – sound itself. LOUD itself. Athens, Georgia’s Jucifer have patched into this philosophy solid state. For their current tour with The Melvins, guitarist Amber Valentine has assembled the Mount Trashmore of amplifiers – A stack of sound 8 feet high that includes every make of cabinet imaginable and every sickeningly cool distortion tone your hairs have ever stood up to.
Newsflash – Jucifer is not a ska band. Their Teutonic soundwave sounds like what would happen if Kat Bjelland formed a metal band with Glenn Branca; or, better yet, just imagine that part in Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed And Confused” after the extended interlude, when the drums kick back in fast. Imagine it, then play it in your head over and over again at maximum volume. Valentine and drummer Edgar Livengood have carved away the fat, gristle, and meat from rock and roll, and now pound their audience over the head with the bone. Her whispered, almost shy vocals totally lost in the wall of sonic mayhem, Valentine never looks up from the neck of her bass/guitar hybrid as her tiny fingers fly over its neck. Livengood is a berserker on the drums, assaulting his stripped down, clear blue kit. As they play, industrial lights and strobes hit cues, giving the whole experience the oddly pleasant sensation of being pummeled by a drill press.
“My best friend is my Ampeg SVT cabinet,” proclaimed Valentine in a March 2000 article in Guitar. “I run a Fender bass head through the Ampeg for my low end, an Acoustic Model 450 head through a Marshall 4×12 for mids, and a Fender Twin Reverb that has been cut down to a head through a Peavey 2×15 cabinet for treble frequencies.” The article goes on to explain that Valentine’s only effect is a BOSS DS-1 distortion pedal. Which is the best part. Because all of that gobbledygook about heads, mids, and frequencies doesn’t really matter if the distorted riff Valentine’s actually playing doesn’t do its job. And what’s that? As neutered rapper Will Smith would say, “Nod ya head.”
And nod they did on a hot night inside Chicago’s Metro, as that tower of equipment stared down on Valentine, Livengood, and the opening act-sized crowd gathered in anticipation of The Melvins. Gradually, as Jucifer fired off round after round of caterwauling, neck-snapping sludge, the intersection between Valentine’s resemblance to Donatella Versace crossed with a heavy metal parking lot version of Paris Hilton, and the fact that this person was the one creating distortion for stomachaches, was integrated by the crowd into the identity of Jucifer. and all that was left was LOUD, RIFF, and DRUMS.
Mid-set, when Livengood lost both his sticks after a particularly furious drum fill, Valentine simply leaned back into her big rig and played the riff he’d whiffed on continuously, until her drummer calmly found new sticks and took a swig of water. Without missing a beat, Jucifer launched back into the song’s coda. A full band might have had some trouble with this; after all, it’s hard to cover up when the drums drop out. But when you’ve cast off all but the basest components of the music, it’s a necessity for the one to at times carry the other. Jucifer plays gothic metal punk that exists as the last note of distortion on Earth, ignited with electricity from the world’s last three-prong outlet. What’s that sound coming out of the hole in the world? It’s the guitar. And Loud is the new loud.