originally hailing from the indie-rock enclave of Athens,
Ga., the atmospheric doom-rock duo Jucifer don’t fit any
sort of art-addled college-rock template. First of all,
they’re ungodly loud. None of this shoegazing-lyric-mumbling-over-jangling-arpeggios
stuff for Jucifer. A wall of amplifiers and a floorful of
vintage stompboxes boost the clatter of one guitar and one
drum kit to a punishing level, leaving the listener feeling
as if they’ve been mugged by the zombified carcasses of
Jack and Meg reanimated by veins full of liquefied Scandanavian
metal. So, there’s that. And, secondly, they’re ungodly
In all honesty, though, there’s more to Jucifer than volume.
On record, the pair throw in house and hiphop beats, turntable
flourishes, bluegrass-flavored dirges and an array of other
influences; and singer-guitarist Amber Valentine’s vocals
are considerably more flexible than the standard-issue umlaut-heavy
black-metal howler. Critics tout their powerful and aggressive
approach consistently, but always make note of their stylistic
extremity, as well. Their hometown rag, Flagpole,
summed ’em up thusly: “. . . Dead Can Dance and White Zombie
fighting over who can be louder.” And Athens’ onetime favorite
mumbler himself, Michael Stipe, clearly singled out Jucifer
for praise in an interview in Details magazine: “Imagine
a very loud and aggressive Southern Gothic version of P.J.
Still, when Valentine and drummer Ed Livengood hit the stage,
it’s a sight to behold (Livingood makes the Muppets’ Animal
look like Danny Partridge) and a sound to cower before.
Jucifer will play Valentine’s (17 New Scotland Ave., Albany)
tomorrow (Friday, May 27). Tickets for the 8 PM show are
$6. Also on the bill: Lincoln Money Shot, Advance Cassette,
and Spitfire Pilot. For more information, call 432-6572.
the political arena, few debates are as heated as those
that center on the question of just what it means to be
human: Whether focused on the ongoing battle over reproductive
rights or the ethical issues attached to the right-to-die
movement, the passionate and often confrontational voices
indicate just how fundamental a question this is. Artists
have taken up this question and added to it a logical—if
challenging—extension: If we cannot say confidently when,
or even that, we are human, how do we know that we are not
some other thing? Something more canine, lupine or ursine,
Beginning on Saturday, MASS MoCA will host an exhibition
dealing with exactly that question. Becoming Animal
gets its title from a work by theorists Deleuze and Guatari
in which they argue that habitual categorizations may no
longer be useful. As paraphrased in MASS MoCA’s exhibition
description: “. . . the authors argue against the idea of
a coherent, unitary individual, and instead posit that we
are many things at once: woman, man, child, adult, animal,
vegetable.” Becoming Animal includes the works of
artists such as Jane Alexander, Rachel Berwick, Michael
Oatman, Adam Zaretsky, and others who explore this ambiguity
in definition between the human and the animal.
Animal opens at MASS MoCA (1040 MASS MoCA Way, North
Adams, Mass.) on Saturday (May 28). From 4-5 PM there will
be an artists’ talk, followed by a reception featuring a
talk by the show’s curator. At 10 PM, the museum will throw
an after party, featuring performances by “alpha wolf” Jason
Martin’s new musical adventure, Evolution Revolution, and
DJ Jesse Stiles. For more information, call (413) 662-2111.
The Smartest Guys in the Room
many awful things have happened in the last four years,
one might be forgiven for forgetting about Enron. The Texas-based
energy company was a nexus of new-economy con game and old-economy
evil: Their energy-trading manipulations brought California
to its knees; their highly touted broadband service failed;
and their use of creative accounting, alleged bribery and
offshore businesses put a new spin on an old form of corruption.
If your Enron memories are fuzzy, then you should see the
documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,
which opens Friday at the Spectrum 8 Theatres. Based on
the book by journalists Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind,
director Alex Gibney’s film will make you laugh, think and—if
you have any sense of moral outrage at all—want to grab
your pitchfork and head over the hill to the nearest corporate
HQ with the rest of us peasants.
Led by Bush family pal Kenneth “Kenny Boy” Lay, super alpha-male
CEO Jeff Skilling and sharklike CFO Andrew Fastow, Enron
employed more than 20,000 people—most of whom lost their
pensions—at the time it went bankrupt in 2001.
One thing you may not have known, and the film makes clear,
is that these Enron guys really weren’t such great businessmen.
Reached by telephone, Gibney explained: “The title’s intentionally
key element of the scam—or I should say the fraud, not scam,
because I don’t think they set out to run a Ponzi scheme—was
making people believe they were the smartest guys in the
room. I think Skilling, and to some extent, Lay, were great
actors. They really could deliver the lines and were very
So, even though the massive power plant they built in India
was never completed or paid for, and the software developed
for their broadband service didn’t work, it never hurt their
image or, for too long, their stock price.
think that’s where it comes down to the whole issue of the
interpretation of Andy Fastow,” Gibney added. “Some people—with
whom I don’t agree—say Andy Fastow killed a good business.
I think Andy Fastow propped up a bad business for about
two years. Illegally and outrageously, but . . .”
Gibney isn’t exaggerating about Fastow’s genius, or guilt.
The film contains amazing footage of the former CFO promising
bankers a guaranteed 2,000-percent return on a particular
investment—fuzzy math, indeed.
The documentary also contains stunning footage of a skit,
taped for a party, in which Skilling and pals laugh it up
about “hypothetical future value accounting,” a concept
not far from their own accounting scams.
did a lot of skits, actually, and over the course of time
they’ll be released,” Gibney said. “I think these skits
. . . in a sense they were just jokes. In another sense,
they were evidence of just extraordinary arrogance. And
also, I would say that—to badly paraphrase Freud—every joke
has something serious going on.”
The Smartest Guys in the Room opens tomorrow (Friday)
at the Spectrum 8 Theatres (290 Delaware Ave., Albany).
Call 449-8995 for showtimes.