First off, unlike just about every other vocals/guitar/drums duo in existence today--the Black Keys, the Immortal Lee County Killers, the Kills, the Soledad Brothers, the Flat Duo Jets, that "brother" and "sister" pair from Detroit whose name I just can't seem to remember, Doo Rag (obligatory local reference, but hey, according to Blender magazine, they're still together), and on and on--Jucifer plays blues-based rock only in the sense that all rock music is based in, or owes a debt to, the blues. In other words, they have very little to do with the blues at all.
Secondly, their home state hasn't produced many, if any, other bands that rock as hard as Jucifer. Atlanta (Jucifer's hometown) and Athens boast a long and esteemed list of great bands, from oldsters like R.E.M., the B-52s, Pylon and Love Tractor to newsters like Neutral Milk Hotel, the Glands and the Sunshine Fix, but let's face it: None of them really rawk.
Jucifer, then, is a bit of an anomaly. Comprising singer guitarist Amber Valentine and drummer Ed Livengood, the pair's music generally alternately falls into one of two categories. There's the relatively slower-tempo tunes, embodied by "Little Fever" and "When She Goes Out," from the band's latest album, I Name You Destroyer (2002, Velocette), in which Valentine's guitar is swirling and atmospheric, and her vocals are purred in come-hither sexiness: You can practically hear her bedroom eyes and tousled hair. Then there are the more up-tempo songs, embodied by "Queen B" from the same album, in which Livengood's drumming doesn't merely keep the beat, it pummels it, and Valentine's guitar becomes a veritable power-chord factory, with her voice growling in a register normally reserved for the likes of black-metal bands.
Ah, the power of sexy/scary: Really, is there anything better? And, as good as their two albums and EP are, they can't hold a quickly burning match to their live shows.
Jucifer performs at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Wednesday, June 11. The Okmoniks and the Blakes open at 9 p.m. Cover is $5. For more information call 622-8848.
MUSIC MAN: Cincinnati-based Brian Lovely is one of those guys I like to call a "professional musician" or "musician-for-hire": He's someone who will seemingly take any gig, in any genre, just to be able to continue making music professionally. His resume is, therefore, all over the map: sideman for artists as diverse as Eddie Money, Lou Christie (best known for his 1966 hit "Lightnin' Strikes"), Count Basie singer Bill Caffee and the late jazz guitarist Cal Collins; a pair of platinum albums for his session work with pop-R&B act Blessed Union of Souls; a contribution to the Pokemon (the first movie) soundtrack (was there a second Pokemon movie?); co-writing a song with the band Pay the Girl, which appeared on the Swimfan soundtrack; and, as his bio states, he's probably "the only man living or dead, to have jammed with both Wayne Newton and Spinal Tap."
But when he's not tucked away in the studio, or handing over the limelight to whomever's signing his paychecks, Lovely is also a singer/songwriter who splits his time between performing with his backing band, Flying Underground, and performing solo and acoustically. As evidenced by his latest album, Superimpose (2002, The Beat Parlor), Lovely recalls a time--let's call it the 1980s--when smart, power-pop singer/songwriters like Marshall Crenshaw and Tommy Keene were, if not exactly burning up the charts, found in abundance. But perhaps the most apt comparison is to the more quirky pop stylings of latter-day XTC, which Lovely has no doubt absorbed like a maxi-pad. With no shortage of hooks and a voice that sounds eerily like Andy Partridge's, Lovely's Superimpose is the best XTC album since 1989's Oranges and Lemons.
Brian Lovely performs solo at 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 7, at the Park Place Borders, 5870 E. Broadway Blvd. Admission is free. Call 584-0111 for further details.
FUNKFEST: There are certain songs that just about everyone, regardless of their proclivities toward certain genres, loves. It's the reason why, when Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" comes on the jukebox in a crowded bar, you can find a gutterpunk dude and a sorority girl doing The Bump together.
Another one of those songs is the Gap Band's "You Dropped a Bomb on Me," one of the most infectious and craftily written R&B songs of the 1980s. Have you heard it lately? There are literally four or five separate hooks crammed into the five-minute-long funkfest, and I dare you not to sing along when it comes on the oldies station.
But, unlike Soft Cell, the Gap Band were no mere one-hit wonders. Pick up a copy of one of the band's many greatest-hits collections and discover a treasure trove of funky pop songs and (somewhat lesser) slow-jams, including "Early in the Morning," "Party Train," and "Burn Rubber (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)," which contains the immortal couplet: "You told me to go up the block to get you a strawberry pop/When I got back to the flat you had burnt rubber out the back."
The Gap Band performs, along with the Sugarhill Gang, the group that brought rap into the mainstream with "Rapper's Delight," and Jo Jo, former lead singer of the Mary Jane Girls, at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 8, at the Anselmo Valencia Amphitheater, located next to Casino del Sol, 5655 W. Valencia Road. Reserved seats are $30 and lawn tickets are $15, available in advance through Ticketmaster at 321-1000 or www.ticketmaster.com. For more info, log onto www.casinodelsol.com.
ON THE BANDWAGON: Tucson faves the Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash return to town for the second time in support of last year's Distance Between (Ultimatum). The album's country-rock direction easily trumps the more pedestrian barroom honky-tonk of the band's 2000 debut, Walk Alone (Ultimatum). They'll perform, along with openers the Clumsy Lovers, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Saturday, June 7. The show begins at 9:30 p.m. For more information call 798-1298.
Club Congress hosts a night of up-and-coming no-wave bands this week that includes San Francisco's ominous, echoey, synth-driven-yet-Wire-influenced Condor, and X27, which includes a former member of Duotron and has been described as early Sonic Youth-meets-Ministry. Somewhat inexplicably, Tucson's Mala Vita, which features no analog synth player, opens. It all goes down at 9 p.m. on Sunday, June 8, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Cover is five bones, and that number again is 622-8848.