Jucifer's Amber Valentine is a petite, pouty-mouthed femme fatale with pink hair and a breathy, almost childlike singing voice. Drummer Edgar Livengood is so skinny he could hide behind a rake. Together, these two tiny people make some big, big noise. Their first album, Calling All Cars On the Vegas Strip, was a divine, if completely bizarre (and absolutely thorough), blend of the Pixies and Black Sabbath. The comparisons are inescapable. Valentine's guitar playing is sometimes a little too reminiscent of Tony Iommi and her voice is whispery Kim Deal all the way. Lyrically, Valentine's songs swing between fairly typical audio noir and smarty-pants pop commentary that would make even Black Francis a little envious. "I want to be like Tabitha Soren," Valentine sings on the song "Hero Worship": "Have my own show on MTV/I want to be like Tabitha Soren/Young, independent, and free." Livengood's Bill Wardian drums are all the accompaniment Valentine needs.
Jucifer's most recent disc, The Lambs, is a little disappointing compared to Calling All Cars On the Vegas Strip. It goes a long way toward proving my theory that too much loud and heavy posturing yields diminishing returns. The new disc's formula is this: whispered verse, screaming unintelligible chorus, repeat as desired. That said, it's better than just about any "heavy" music out there today except for the Melvins, who remain in a class by themselves. Jucifer is playing at the Map Room on Thursday, November 29th, with Poison the Well, Few Left Standing, Swollen Enemy, and Unearth.
Elvis may have given birth to the rock-and-roll phenomenon, but the man responsible for defining rock as we know it is none other than Dick Dale. His contribution: volume. When Dale started out in the '50s he was notorious for blowing up amplifiers. They would quite literally catch fire. The sound he defined was blistering, sexy and seedy. They called it surf rock, but the sound smacked as much of drag strips, strip joints, and juvenile delinquency as it did of sand and surf. Perhaps more so. It was all about the wang of the whammy bar, the thunder of bass notes played at lightning speed, and spare, piercing leads. His signature tune, "Miserlou," was the theme to Pulp Fiction. It's been used to promote Domino's Pizza and hock Mountain Dew. Chances are you know the tune by heart even if you've never heard the name Dick Dale. Chances are you feel like a bad boy or girl every time you hear it. Dirty even. Dale is bringing his beat up Stratocaster to the Hard Rock Café on Beale on Friday, November 30th. If you miss this guy you've missed the man who inspired everything from punk to the heaviest of metal. He may not have invented rock, but his modifications of the form are enduring. Without him amplifiers might still only go up to 4, and where would Spinal Tap be then? -- Chris Davis
He may not be as strong a songwriter as D'Angelo or Erykah Badu, but Maxwell was as instrumental as anyone in jumpstarting the current boom in boho soul music. In the mid-'90s, artists like Maxwell, D'Angelo, and Tony Rich (since exposed as a bush-league Babyface, but he seemed fresh at the time) created an alternative R&B sphere in which those tired of sex-crazed, narcissistic gigolos (such as Jodeci) could indulge in the romantic, atmospheric soul of Marvin Gaye and Al Green filtered through a post-hip-hop sensibility. Maxwell's mood music is often too lacking in backbone (or backbeat) for my tastes, but his tourmate, Angie Stone, a former musical (and romantic) collaborator with D'Angelo, should provide more grounded couterpoint to his lover-man soundscapes. Maxwell and Stone will be at The Orpheum theater on Friday, November 30th.
Best known for his late '50s rockabilly hit "Suzie Q" -- later covered by Creedence Clearwater Revival -- Dale Hawkins may be swamp-rock's greatest success story. Aside from some producing work in the '60s, Hawkins hasn't been heard from much since his big hit, but he's back on the road and will be at the Hi-Tone Café on Friday, November 30th. -- Chris Herrington