Royal Trux


(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
Royal Trux (1988), 7.5/10
Twin Infinitives, 9/10
Royal Trux, 7/10
Cats And Dogs, 7/10
Thank You, 6/10
Sweet Sixteen, 5/10
Accelerator, 6/10
Singles Live Unreleased, 6/10
Veterans of Disorder, 6.5/10
Pound For Pound , 6/10
Neil Hagerty: Neil Michael Hagerty , 6.5/10
Neil Hagerty: Plays That Good Old Rock And Roll , 6.5/10
Neil Hagerty: The Howling Hex (2003), 5.5/10
Howling Hex: All Night Fox (2005), 5/10
Howling Hex: You Can't Beat Tomorrow (2005), 5/10
Howling Hex: 1-2-3 (2006) , 5/10
Howling Hex: Nightclub Version Of The Eternal (2006), 4/10
RTX: Transmaniacon (2004), 5/10
RTX: Western Xterminator (2007), 4/10
RTX: JJ Got Live RaTX (2008), 4.5/10
Howling Hex: Earth Junk (2008), 4.5/10
Links:

Summary.
Royal Trux, i.e. keyboardist Jennifer Herrema and former Pussy Galore guitarist Neil Hagerty, carried out a post-modernist program of revisiting and deconstructing rock music, a program that encompassed countless quotations from the Rolling Stones, Captain Beefheart and Jimi Hendrix, as well as fueling them with the aesthetic excrements of the "no wave". Royal Trux (1988) revealed the duo's perverted passion for disfiguring blues-rock and leaving only harmonic ashes behind them. It was a tribute not to a genre (that was the vehicle) but to their generation of stoned and drunk artists (that was the message). There was no music per se: there were only subsonic litanies, limping rhythms and disjointed accompaniment, that mirrored (on a very warped parallel universe) the stereotypes of blues-rock. Twin Infinitives (1990), one of the milestone recordings of the era, a sort of Trout Mask Replica for the grunge generation, toured an impassable jungle of clumsy and puerile noises. Derailed by pseudo-jazz and pseudo-avantgarde pretentions, its delirious pieces sounded like nuclear bacchanals via spastic jamming. Lacking any sense of order or purpose, the album was a colossal chaos of musical detours. The anarchic and illiterate art that had been foreshadowed and incubated throughout the 1980s by the works of punk-rock, the no wave, industrial music, and so forth, had reached the terminal point. The two devastated psyches had forged a hyper-psychedelic form of cubism. Royal Trux (1992) marked a return to a more conventional song format, and Cats And Dogs (1993) was virtually a sell-out, despite the knack for extravagant dynamics.
Full biography.
(Translated from the Italian by Nicole Zimmerman)

Royal Trux established themselves during the 90's as one of the greatest rock groups of all time. Not only did they give us the masterpiece of extraordinary scope Twin Infinitives (one of the albums that required decades to be completely assimilated) but they also reinvented the concept of a rock group, a concept that was born with the Rolling Stones (a group that had inspired a large part of their music).

Jennifer Herrema (organ) and Neil Hagerty (ex-guitarist of Pussy Galore), both coming from Washington, formed Royal Trux in 1986 in New York. The idea was to continue to play primitive blues-rock in the style of Pussy Galore, but with a more intellectual and less visceral attitude. Several shows, with varying accompaniment played on all sorts of instruments (from organ to saxophone), and the death of a member from overdose, turned the group into a club legend in Manhattan. Two of their tracks, Luminous Dolphin and Cut You Loose, appeared on a compilation (by ROIR).

The album Royal Trux (Royal, 1988) appears to be a monumental musical paradox. Tracks like Bad Blood (on which they alternatively mimic the riff of Day Tripper, the Ventures and a blues a` la Captain Beefheart), or Zero Dok (a ballad with trembling psychedelic organ and a sobbing rhythm), or also Esso Dame, which was so driving compared to the others to seem like a voodoo-billy played by the Holy Modal Rounders, sprang up from the most deranged and shabby instrumental parts, as if the musicians were careful to never get the arrangements and timing right; as well as from a singing discharge that only an unrestrained optimist can define as a song. These were the tracks that were more lively and regular. Most of their great work stopped short of this. Their most authentic character was expressed in primitive blues, reduced to the bone, of just a few flat chords and some intelligible laments; sub-sonic mixes of Jimi Hendrix and Lydia Lunch (Incineration); psychotic infantile sing-songs a` la Beefheart (Sice I Bones); stopping just within reach of a rare variant, slow and pure of Sister Morphine in Andersonville. Their solipsism and their extreme minimalism competed with the spartan and individualistic spirit of modern rock, like Jandek and Daniel Johnston. The arrangements were mostly minimalist and (to use a euphemism) eccentric. Such was Sanction Smith, a 20's style ragtime sung drunk and accompanied only by beats of the guitar and a metal object. Walking Machine had a futuristic out of tune organ. Bits And Spurs was emblematic of these inarticulate jams, which became defined by emitting unpleasant sounds with apathy and subnormal boredom. Royal Trux rotated between hare-krishna fanfare, played with the verve of street musicians, the madness of David Peel, and the cosmic infantilism of Sun Ra in the jumping sound of Jesse James. To culminate this minimalist form of music was the comic rhyme of Gold Dust. The two group members touched upon the apex of their insane harmonics in the pseudo-jazz instrumental Hashish and on the track Touch, in which the strong dissonance of the organ brought to mind Nice. The album, for the experiment that it was, sounded incredibly unified and coherent, and contained, in a nutshell, a large part of their career.

At the end of 1989 Herrema and Hagerty relocated to San Francisco, where they recorded the single Hero Zero/Love Is (Drag City), the double single with Nox Fixed Address, Spike Cyclone, Baghdad Buzz, and Sunflavor. Completely under the influence of drugs, the two began work on their new album, Hand of Glory (Drag City, 2002), although it was abandoned half way through (the sessions saw the light 13 years later under the form of two long suites: Domo Des Burros - a primitive blues a` la Captain Beefheart's Mirror Man, and Boxing Story, a collage of electronic sounds like that of Karlheinz Stockhausen).

Instead the duo produced a double album, titled Twin Infinitives (Drag City, 1990), with ambitious intentions: pushing the art of rock composition to the limits in a way that it could be rock and roll but without people recognizing that it was. Contrary to those who thought this came about from a colossal improv during a drug orgy, the album represented an analytical reflection on the perception of the details and the linguistic system which transcend the literal and create an abstraction, but an abstraction anchored to the literal. There was also an anarchical and libertarian message, of revolting against institutions, of hating classes. It was composed and recorded under the influence of the monument of rock culture that was Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart. It was also intended to be a tribute to the 2 great double albums of the golden era of rock, Exile On Main Street by the Rolling Stones and Uncle Meat by Frank Zappa. Additionally, it was also one of the albums that invented the lo-fi aesthetic, which exalted the underground, independent American musical craft: a semi-amateurish musical style that had a "home-made" sort of feel; a hobby of the highest quality and attention to detail. It became one of the most important albums in rock music, the "Trout Mask Replica" of noise-rock, an impenetrable jungle of dirty sounds and childish rhythms, smothered by electronics; a cubist masterpiece of deconstruction and reconstruction of musical forms. Not only Beefheart (who inspired more spirit than form), but also Faust - German geniuses of chaos, Pere Ubu - from which they borrowed the art of assimilating electronics within the harmonic structure of rock, and Chrome - from which they borrowed the brutal method of transforming the conjoining of sounds by torture. Every track was immersed in a blazing stream of noise (instrumental and electronic) that was totally illogical: just casual and random noises. The few phases of music that were composed, or planned, were put under every sort of butchering: tapes were cut and recomposed above all, some fragments were left behind, some others duplicated, and still others accelerated or decelerated. The duo showed no mercy. In Chances Are The Comets In Our Future, one of their most programmatic, resounding, and hallucinating feedback filled tracks which accompanied the vocal rhyme in a manner that joined the two, the phrases by the two voices were gradually torn from the tape and randomly replaced, crumbling even the shred of logic that remained. Analogically in Solid Gold Tooth, a deranged blues in which the vocal harmonies (the call of the muezzin by him and the moaning by her, with a newscast in the background) seemed to originate from tapes that were played just for their own sake. It was the rigorous method of insanity. From that prospective, Royal Trux either created a regressed variation of industrial music or very advanced psychedelia. In Jet Pet, the singing of Herrema was shattered by a colossal distortion, but on a background of warbles and electronic thuds. For its part, RTX-USA was like a ritual dancing from a metallic jungle, which indulged in the most wild chaos; from formless matter emerged a mysterious flute and one of the most graceless guitar solos in the history of music. Industrial and metallic rhythms fill Glitterbust. These were ballads by wasted artists, in which not even a shred of a song remained and all the other sounds were horribly deformed until it lost their trademark, their melody line, their rhythm; until it became only hisses, hums, and rumbles like that of a monstrous nightmare (Kool Down Wheels). Sun Ra comes to mind in the prolonged dissonance of Osiris, that served as cosmic admonitions, while unidentified bodies hissed; Herrema recited something, but the substance was that of noises, without melody or theme, only unpleasant noises; one of their most evocative cacophonic displays. The tour de force of this spastic jamming was the suite Ape Oven, which was infernal, like a horror film, with a menacing riff (perhaps the most musical thing on the album) superimposed on an uninterrupted sequence of free dissonance and all covered with hard-hitting percussion in a weak manner. But where it coagulated into a recognizable form, even if through a thick fog, there were musical events that would go down in history. A semblance of blues emerged in the pace of the guitar in Yin Jim Versus The Vomit Creature, while Hagerty mumbled unintelligible words under the thick blanket of distortions, feedback, and assorted noises; quickly the noises take to the wind but he continues to yap and laugh in the whirlwind of noxious radiation. Before that there was a piece of music that was magnificent, an extravagant example of recitation. Herrema was more spatial and her drunken rants (her whining similar to Lydia Lunch was tired and bored) were perfect for songs like Ice Cream, or for arrangements that consisted of a whistle and a chord (an off-key solo) by the guitar that strummed the melody, with a chord (also off-key) on the other guitar that played the counter point, and also maracas and the usual tumultuous electronic sounds that grow in the background; or like Ratcreeps, a duel between a slightly off-key chord and an electronic rumble; or like Lick My Boots, on which Herrema pretends to commit herself to the song and duels with a pair of methodical dissonances. Her litanies were set in an apocalyptic scenario, post-nuclear, a scenario of destruction and decay, of ruin and devastation: the survivors enter into unison with the wreckage. The Dadaism instituted by the instrumentals has its own value. The dissonant apex of the work, that would be the envy of Varese and Cage, was the track Florida Avenue Theme, as unmusical as a song could be. But perhaps the most ingenious piece in this area was Funky Son, with irritating scordaturas on the guitar, broken dishes, sol-fas on trombone and strumming on the piano at a danceable pace: if school-children broke into a recording studio and played the instruments, they could not produce anything less harmonious. Shamelessly, this ends gloriously: with a love-song on piano sung by Herrema (and naturally neither the vocalist nor the piano carried the tune). In this monumental work, Royal Trux deconstructed blues-rock by dissecting and separating rhythmic patterns, marks, melodies, and recording songs under the influence of massive amounts of hysteria, not so much theatrics. All in all, Twin Infinitives was a collection of precious musical rubbish. Super psychedelic keyboards and the vocal harmonies by the duo were not half bad (for a mess).

The third album, Royal Trux (Drag City, 1992), was released after a long pause due to detox and personal issues. The songs on "Twin Infinitives" posed a problem: they were not suitable to be played live. The songs of the third album were composed, however, to be played in front of an audience. This format signaled a return to the classic format of rock music. It was not surprising then that the album changed route drastically, picking up where Hagerty left off with Pussy Galore, with a primitive style of blues. The tracks Move and Sometimes, on which the guitars (strumming in the foreground and distortion in the background)sounded as if they were given over to lousy strolling minstrels, noticeably diminished the reach of their historic mission, limiting the accomplishment of the work to somewhere between a parody and a tribute directed towards the Rolling Stones. Lightning Boxer resembled a ballad by Neil Young being played on a slow turntable and filled with crackles. The rhythm picked up only in the excited finale, Sun On The Run. Then out of nowhere the acoustic ballad Junkie Nurse broke through in perfect imitation of early Dylan style. This album was a work of transition, confused and weak, recorded by a duo that had a vision but was still unsure of where to go with it. It was as if Royal Trux had exhausted itself in Twin Infinitives, saying everything it had to say, and then all the group could do was reinvent itself simpler. The album was more subtle than those prior. First of all, it was a work that epitomized the principles of composition and execution found in Twin Infinitives for a broader listening base. Secondly, the album offered a more intimate and personal image of the group, eliminating the distance that a work like Twin Infinitives created between the composer and the consumer. The lyrics revealed a vulnerability and tenderness that contrasted with the image of "ugly, dirty, and bad". Even so, the album confirmed Royal Trux as the rightful heirs of Pussy Galore, which reduced the music to distracted quotes of the classics, knowing that in reality, the classics were played very differently from where they came from. Their haggard style, having originated from a massive overdose, flowed without the use of refrains; its merit was of deconstruction of stereotypes without worry about reconstruction, like a child who abandoned the fragments of his toy on the pavement after taking it apart. Sometimes the fragments were more interesting than the toy itself.

After the single Red Tiger, which confirmed a break from the past, came Cats And Dogs (Drag City, 1993), which normalized the format of the songs and brought to the foreground the elements of 70's music (progressive-rock, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, hard-rock, and above all Rolling Stones) that were not visible previously in all the confusion. After an intense season of touring, during which the group came to be known by many of their colleagues, Royal Trux was recognized for the first time as part of the music scene of their time. The album was a bit of a parody (affectionately) of the independent music scene that was largely ignored by others. The perverse genius of Twin Infinitives was not dead, not only because they permitted drunken revelry like Friends, but also because a new form of melodious song emerged which was filled with catchy refrains in a noisy context: the psychedelic industrial-blues of Driving In That Car, the syncopated rhyme like the Allman Brothers in Flag, and the boogie like Lou Reed in Let's Get Lost. However, what was heard was above all the anemic blues-rock from the early Grateful Dead (Teeth, Hot And Cold Skulls), at the most, with some remnant of Stooges (Skywood Greenback Mantra, Up The Sleeve). The two forms found an improbable meeting point in the ballad Spectre, perhaps the apex of the album which was on a course that was a little zombie and a little fairy tale. The ramshackle performances left no doubt just how much heroin separated Mick Jagger from Turn Of The Century and Driving In That Car, the two jams that were vaguely soul-blues and in which the listener can find the two "faces" of the album.

Always aware (perhaps too aware) of the history of rock music, Royal Trux finally poisoned itself. Herrema and Hagerty decided to compose a trilogy dedicating each chapter (each album) to a decade of rock music. The idea was to take the techniques and the spirit of each era in a literal manner, or refer to the recording techniques of each decade. Played by a stable quintet, Thank You (Virgin, 1995), transferred the spirit of the 60's to music, when the youth was convinced of the importance of the message and believed that they could stop the world. The results were modest. A Night To Remember and You're Gonna Lose were not more than a pale tribute to the Rolling Stones. The haggard boogie of The Sewers Of Mars and the imitation of Brown Sugar in Ray O Vac were the best Royal Trux could do when sober.

Much more disturbing was the single Mercury/Shockwave Rider (Domino).

Hagerty and Herrema entered a period of crisis with Sweet Sixteen (Charisma, 1997), an album that was dedicated to their idols from the 70's. The two leaders left the musicians free to improvise instrumental bridges. Morphic Resident was an orgy of glam-rock, psychedelia, and garage-rock. The recipe consisted of pinches of new wave and progressive-rock (Microwave Made, injections of garage-rock (Can't Have It Both Ways), a bit of Stooges (10 Days 12 Nights) and MC5 (Sweet Sixteen), and naturally the usual massive dose of Rolling Stones (on all tracks one could hear the slow shuffling, almost dubs, of Cold Joint). Where this process might have led was unknown, even to them. Don't Try Too Hard seemed like a parody of rap-metal but with a super-arranged brit-pop style refrain. Sweet Sixteen (Charisma, 1997) was a fetishist orgy of glam-rock, new wave, and progressive-rock; finally a sound produced in a professional manner. The commercial value of this album was almost nothing causing a dispute with the record label.

The songs were enjoyable but missing the geniality which Jennifer Herrema and Neil Hagerty had in their masterpieces such as Twin Infinitives (Drag City, 1990) and the above average albums such as Cats And Dogs and the third.

Accelerator (Drag City, 1998), dedicated to the 80's, redeemed that issue. Herrema and Hagerty may have confused their dates because this seemed like a album in the style of the 90's, dripping with Guided By Voices and Beck. The hillbilly ballad Yellow Kid seemed to parody Merseybeat and folk-rock with its out of tune vocal harmonies and its jingle-jangle dissonance. The structure of Liar runs glaringly on the bubblegum style of the 60's. The album distinguished itself from the previous, above all, by almost fierce emphasis on the arrangements, starting with the emphatic refrain and Southern boogie riff in I'm Ready (the counterpoint of a semi-comic wailing synthesizer, also this was a mark of the lo-fi aesthetic) that finished with a stormy stride along with sobbing in Follow The Winter. The noisy and angry garage-rock of The Banana Question was modernized by the syncopation and chorus borrowed from the Breeders and L7. The album closed with an imitation of the decadent lullabies of David Bowie, Stevie, which was completely different from the 8 preceding songs. The clownish style of many of the songs were references to the costumed carnivals of the Residents and of the surreal postcards of Half Japanese, above all when accompanied by a demented loop (like in Juicy Juicy Juice). The problem was that, since they stopped using drugs, they were relegated to a minor phenomenon in independent, underground American music. All of the limits they encountered were evidence to this fact, while the merits of their masterpieces completely disappeared. One thing was certain however, this was their most violent and deafening album.

Singles Live Unreleased (Drag City, 1998) presented several unedited tracks, among them Back To School and Shockwave Rider, two tracks worthy of a greater repertoire.

I Royal Trux si sono affermati durante gli anni '90 come uno dei massimi complessi di musica rock di tutti i tempi. Non solo hanno dato un capolavoro di portata straordinaria come Twin Infinitives (uno di quei dischi che richiedera` decenni per essere completamente assimilato) ma hanno anche reinventato un concetto di complesso rock che era nato con i Rolling Stones e a cui gran parte della musica rock si era ispirato.

Jennifer Herrema (organo) e Neil Hagerty (ex chitarra dei Pussy Galore), entrambi provenienti da Washington, formarono i Royal Trux nel 1986 a New York. L'idea era quella di continuare a suonare blues-rock primitivista nello stile dei Pussy Galore, ma con un'attitudine piu` intellettuale e meno viscerale. Alcune esibizioni, con comprimari variabili che suonavano di tutto (dall'organo al sassofono), e la morte di uno di essi per overdose, fecero del gruppo una leggenda dei club di Manhattan. Due loro brani, Luminous Dolphin e Cut You Loose, apparvero su una compilation (della ROIR).

L'album Royal Trux (Royal, 1988) si presenta come un monumento al paradosso musicale. Brani come Bad Blood (in cui scimmiottano ora il riff di Day Tripper ora i Ventures ed ora un blues alla Captain Beefheart), o Zero Dok (ballata con tremolio di organo psichedelico e ritmo a singhiozzi), o ancora Esso Dame, tanto "incalzante" rispetto agli altri da sembrare un voodoobilly suonato dagli Holy Modal Rounders, scaturiscono dalle parti strumentali piu' scalcagnate, suonate con l'approssimazione dei dilettanti e facendo attenzione a non imbroccare mai l'accordo e il tempo giusto; nonche' da emanazioni canore che soltanto uno sfrenato ottimista potrebbe definire "canto".
E questi sono i brani piu' vispi e regolari. Il grosso dell'opus dei Royal Trux si ferma molto prima. La loro indole piu' autentica si esprime in blues primitivissimi ridotti all'osso di pochi accordi sbiaditi e qualche lamento inintelleggibile, incroci subsonici di Jimi Hendrix e Lydia Lunch (Incineration), cantilene psicotico-infantili alla Beefheart (Sice I Bones), fino a pervenire a una variante rarefatta, rallentata e depurata di Sister Morphine (in Andersonville).
Il loro solipsismo e i loro limiti estremi di minimalita' possono tranquillamente fare concorrenza agli spiriti piu' spartani e autarchici del rock moderno, agli Jandek e ai Daniel Johnston. Gli arrangiamenti sono i piu' minimali e (per usare un eufemismo) eccentrici. Cosi' Sanction Smith e' un ragtime anni Venti cantato da un ubriaco che si accompagna solo con colpi di chitarra e un pezzo di ferro. In Walking Machine un organo stonato aggiunge un tono futurista. Bits And Spurs e' emblematica di queste jam disarticolate, che diventano ammassi di suoni sgradevoli emessi con languore e noia subnormali. Si oscilla fra fanfare hare-krishna, suonate con la verve dei musicisti di strada e il piglio folle di David Peel, e l'infantilismo cosmico di Sun Ra nel saltarello di Jesse James. Culmine di questa forma di canzone minimale e' la comica filastrocca di Gold Dust.
Il duo tocca l'apice della propria demenza armonica nello strumentale pseudo-jazz Hashish e nella piece cacofonica Touch, in cui le pronunciate dissonanze dell'organo fanno tornare in mente i Nice.
Il disco, per essere l'esperimento libero che fu, suona incredibilmente unitario e coerente, e contiene, in nuce, gran parte della loro carriera.

Alla fine del 1989 il duo si sposta a San Francisco, dove registra il singolo Hero Zero/ Love Is (Drag City), il doppio singolo con No Fixed Address, Spike Cyclone, Baghdad Buzz e Sunflavor. Il duo, completamente succube delle droghe, comincia anche a lavorare al nuovo album, Hand of Glory (Drag City, 2002), che pero` abbandona a meta` (le sessions vedranno la luce soltanto 13 anni piu` tardi sotto forma di due lunghe suite: Domo Des Burros e` un blues primitivista alla Mirror Man di Captain Beefheart, mentre Boxing Story e` un collage elettronico alla Karlheinz Stockhausen).

Nasce invece un doppio intitolato Twin Infinitives (Drag City, 1990), album che si presentava ambizioso fin dagli intenti: spingere l'arte di composizione rock ai limiti estremi, in modo che fosse ancora rock and roll ma la gente non riuscisse piu` a riconoscerlo come tale. Contrariamente a chi penso` che si trattasse di una colossale improvvisazione durante orge di droga, il disco rappresenta una riflessione analitica su come la percezione dei dettagli e il sistema linguistico possano trascendere il letterale e creare un'astrazione, ma un'astrazione ancorata a quel significato letterale. Fu anche un messaggio anarchico e libertario, di rivolta contro le istituzioni, di odio di classe. E venne composto e registrato sotto l'influenza di quel monumento della cultura rock che e` Trout Mask Replica di Captain Beefheart. Volle infine essere anche un tributo all'era dei grandi doppi dell'epoca d'oro del rock, Exile On Main Street dei Rolling Stones a Uncle Meat di Frank Zappa. Fu anche uno dei dischi che inventarono l'estetica del "lo fi", che esaltarono l'artigianato musicale Americano, quell'arte semi-amatoriale che ha come caratteristiche principali il calore del "fatto in casa", l'alta qualita` degli hobby e l'attenzione per il dettaglio.
Ne venne fuori uno dei dischi piu' importanti della musica rock, un Trout Mask Replica del noise-rock, una giungla impenetrabile di suoni sporchi e di ritmi puerili, fradici di elettronica, un capolavoro cubista di decostruzione e ricostruzione delle forme musicali. Non solo Beefheart (che infonde lo spirito piu' che la lettera dell'operazione), ma anche i Faust, i sommi geni tedeschi del caos, i Pere Ubu, per l'arte di assimilare l'elettronica nelle strutture armoniche del rock, e i Chrome, per il metodo efferato di trasformare quel connubio in una tortura.
Ogni brano e' immerso in una colata rovente di rumori (strumentali ed elettronici), che non hanno assolutamente alcuna logica: sono soltanto rumori gratuiti e casuali. Le poche fasi di musica che sono state composte, o comunque pianificate, vengono sottoposte a ogni sorta di massacro a tavolino: i nastri vengono tagliati e poi ricomposti sottosopra, qualche frammento viene lasciato fuori, qualche altro viene duplicato, qualche altro viene accelerato o rallentato. Il duo non ha pieta' di nulla.
In Chances Are The Comets In Our Future, uno dei brani piu' programmatici, riverberi e feedback allucinanti accompagnano la filastrocca cantata in maniera per giunta asincrona dai due, e le frasi delle due voci vengono poco a poco strappate dal nastro e incollate e sovrapposte a caso, spezzando anche il minimo di logica che restava. Analogamente in Solid Gold Tooth, un blues dei mentecatti in cui le armonie vocali (il salmodiare da muezzin di lui e i gemiti distorti di lei, con un sottofondo di radiogiornale) sembrano originate da nastri che girano per conto proprio.
E' il metodo rigorosissimo della pazzia.
A seconda della prospettiva, si tratta di una variante di musica industriale molto regredita o di psichedelia molto avanzata. In Jet Pet la cantilena di Herrema e' squarciata da una colossale distorsione, ma su un sottofondo di gorgoglii e tonfi elettronici. Dal canto suo RTX-USA, sorta di danza rituale della jungla metallurgica, indulge nel caos piu' brado, ma dal magma amorfo si librano un flauto enigmatico e uno degli assoli di chitarra piu' sgraziati della storia della musica. Ritmi industriali, metallurgici, popolano Glitterbust. Sono ballate da iper-eroinomani, nelle quali non e' rimasta che una larva di canto e tutti gli altri suoni sono orrendamente deformati, fino a perdere la loro timbrica, la loro linea melodica, il loro ritmo, fino a diventare puri sibili, ronzii e rombi di un incubo mostruoso (Kool Down Wheels).
Viene in mente persino Sun Ra nelle dissonanze prolungate di Osiris, che fungono da richiami cosmici, mentre intorno sibilano corpi non identificati; Herrema recita qualcosa, ma lo show e' quello dei rumori, senza melodia o schema, soltanto rumori sgradevolissimi, una delle loro fanfare cacofoniche piu' suggestive.
Il tour de force di questo "jamming" spastico e' la suite Ape Oven, forte di una sceneggiatura thriller che prevede un riff minaccioso (forse la cosa piu' musicale del disco) sovrapposto a una sequenza ininterrotta di dissonanze libere; il tutto condito di percussioni percosse in maniera svogliata, fiacca.
Ma laddove il tutto coagula in una forma riconoscibile, sia pur attraverso una nebbia fittissima, si verificano eventi musicali di portata storica. Parvenze di blues affiorano nell'incedere di chitarra di Yin Jim Versus The Vomit Creature, mentre Hagerty biascica parole inintelleggibili sotto la solita spessa coltre di distorsioni, feedback e rumori assortiti; presto i rumori prendono il sopravvento, ma lui continua ad abbaiare e ridere nel vortice di radiazioni nocive. Prima ancora che un pezzo di musica e' un magnifico, per quanto stravagante, esempio di recitazione.
Herrema ha piu' spazio e i suoi rantoli da alcoolizzata, i suoi guaiti da Lydia Lunch nata stanca e annoiata, si rivelano perfettamente indicati per "canzoni" come Ice Cream, ovvero per arrangiamenti che constano di un fischietto e una corda (una sola, stonata) della chitarra che strimpella la melodia, con una corda (altrettanto stonata) dell'altra chitarra che le fa da contrappunto, maracas, e il solito tumulto di suoni elettronici che cresce in sottofondo; o come Ratcreeps, a duellare con un pizzichio di corda stonata e un borboglio elettronico; o come Lick My Boots, in cui questa volta lei fa finta di impegnarsi al canto e duella alla pari con un paio di dissonanze metodiche. Le sue litanie sono ambientate in uno scenario apocalittico, post-nucleare, uno scenario di distruzione e disfacimento, di rovine e devastazione: i superstiti entrano in risonanza con le macerie.
Il dadaismo insistito delle parti strumentali ha comunque un suo valore. Apice cacofonico dell'opera, da far impallidire Varese e Cage, e' il Florida Avenue Theme, tanto musicale quanto la registrazione degli echi del traffico dentro una fessura della parete di un tunnel. Ma forse la piece piu' geniale in questo campo e' Funky Son, per scordature irritanti di chitarra, stoviglie spezzate, solfeggi di trombone e strimpelli di pianoforte a ritmo ballabile: una scolaresca che irrompa in uno studio di registrazione e si avventi sugli strumenti non produrrebbe nulla di meno armonioso.
Quest'oltraggio senza pudore finisce in gloria nel miglior modo possibile: con una romanza per pianoforte cantata da Herrema (e naturalmente tanto lo strumento quanto la cantante non azzeccano una nota).
In quest'opera monumentale i Royal Trux hanno decostruito il bluesrock sezionando e separando figure ritmiche, timbri, melodie, registri canori, sotto l'effetto non tanto di un programma teorico quanto di dosi massicce di isteria. Sia come sia alla fine Twin Infinitives e' una certosina raccolta di preziosi pezzi di spazzatura musicale. Le tastiere iper-psichedeliche e le armonie vocali del duo riescono a seminare uno scompiglio mica male. Il terzo album, Royal Trux (Drag City, 1992), usci` dopo un lungo periodo di pausa, dovuto alla disintossicazione e ad altri problemi personali. Le canzoni di "Twin Infinitives" ponevano un problema: non si prestavano ovviamente per essere suonate dal vivo. Le canzoni del terzo album vennero composte appositamente per essere suonate davanti a un pubblico. Il formato segna pertanto volutamente un ritorno al formato classico della musica rock.
Non sorprende pertanto che il disco cambi drasticamente rotta, riprendendo il disco la' dove Hagerty l'aveva lasciato nei Pussy Galore, cioe' a uno stile di blues primitivista. Le varie Move e Sometimes, che le chitarre (una strimpellata in primo piano e una distorta in sottofondo) retrocedono ad armonie da guitti girovaghi, ridimensionano notevolmente la portata della loro missione storica, limitandosi a compiere un'operazione a meta' fra la parodia e il tributo nei confronti dei Rolling Stones.
Lightning Boxer sembra una ballata di Neil Young suonata su un giradischi che gracchia e perde giri. Il ritmo prende quota soltanto nel concitato finale, Sun On The Run. Poi dal nulla spunta la ballata acustica Junkie Nurse, in perfetto stile primo Dylan. Questo album e' un'opera di transizione, debole e confusa, registrato da un duo che ha una visione ancora un po' sfocata di dove vuole andare. E' come se i Royal Trux avessero esaurito in Twin Infinitives tutto cio' che avevano da dire, e adesso non possano far altro che inventarsi una nuova, piu' semplice, carriera.
L'album e` piu` subdolo di quanto sempri. Prima di tutto, e` un'opera che ricapitola i principi compositivi ed esecutivi di Twin Infinitives per un pubblico piu` ampio. In secondo luogo, offre un'immagine piu` intima e personale del gruppo, eliminado la distanza che un'opera come Twin Infinitives creava fra il compositore e il fruitore. Le liriche tradiscono una vulnerabilita` e una tenerezza che contrastano con l'immagine di "brutti sporchi e cattivi".
Sia come sia, il disco conferma i Royal Trux come gli eredi naturali dei Pussy Galore, di quel ridurre la musica a una citazione distratta dei classici, sapendo che in realta' i classici suonavano ben diversamente negli scantinati da cui provenivano. Il loro stile straccione, originato da overdose massicce, da "viaggi" senza ritorni, ha il merito di "decostruire" gli stereotipi senza minimamente preoccuparsi di ricostruirli, di abbandonare i frammenti del giocattolo sul pavimento dopo averlo smontato. Qualche volta i frammenti sono piu' interessanti del giocattolo intero.

Dopo il singolo Red Tiger, che conferma la svolta rispetto al passato, esce Cats And Dogs (Drag City, 1993), che normalizza ulteriormente il formato delle canzoni e porta in primo piano gli elementi "Seventies" (progressive-rock, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, hardrock, soprattutto Stones) che prima erano invisibili nel marasma generale.
Dopo un'intensa stagione di tour, durante i quali avevano conosciuto numerosi colleghi, i Royal Trux si riconobbero per la prima volta parte della scena musicale del loro tempo. L'album fa un po' la parodia (affettuosa) di quella scena di musicisti indipendenti ignorati da tutti.
Il genio perverso di Twin Infinitives non e' del tutto morto, e non soltanto perche' permengono baccanali "nucleari" come Friends, ma perche' spunta una nuova forma di canzone melodica, che impiega ritornelli orecchiabili in contesti "rumorosi": la cantilena blues-psichedelico-industriale Driving In That Car, la filastrocca sincopata alla Allman Brothers di Flag e il boogie "leggero" alla Reed Let's Get Lost. Ma cio' che si ascolta e' invece soprattutto il bluesrock anemico dei primi Grateful Dead (Teeth, Hot And Cold Skulls), tutt'al piu' con qualche scampolo di Stooges (Skywood Greenback Mantra, Up The Sleeve).
Le due forme trovano un improbabile punto di equilibrio nella ballata di Spectre, forse l'apice del disco, per il suo andamento un po' da zombie un po' da favola per bambini. Le performance sgangherate non lasciano comunque dubbi su quanti chili di eroina separino Mick Jagger da Turn Of The Century e Driving In That Car, le due jam vagamente soul-blues in cui si perdono le due facciate del disco.

Sempre consci (anche troppo) della storia della musica rock, finalmente disintossicatisi, Herrema e Hagerty decisero di comporre una trilogia dedicando ciascun capitolo (ciascun disco) a un decennio della musica rock. L'idea era quella di riprendere le tecniche e lo spirito di ciascuna epoca in maniera "letterale", ovvero rifacendosi alle tecniche di registrazione di ciascun decennio.
Suonato da un quintetto finalmente stabile, Thank You (Virgin, 1995) trasferisce in musica lo spirito leggiadro degli anni '60, quando i ragazzi erano convinti della propria importanza ed erano convinti di poter fermare il mondo.
I risultati sono comunque un po' modesti. A Night To Remember e You're Gonna Lose non vanno pero` oltre un pallido tributo ai maestri Rolling Stones. Il boogie straccione di The Sewers Of Mars e l'imitazione di Brown Sugar in Ray O Vac sono quanto di meglio riescono a fare quando sono sobri.

Ben piu` inquietante e` il coevo singolo Mercury/ Shockwave Rider (Domino).

Hagerty e Herrema confermano il periodo di crisi con Sweet Sixteen (Charisma, 1997), un album che e` dedicato ai loro idoli degli anni '70. I due leader lasciarono i musicisti liberi di improvvisare ponti strumentali.
Morphic Resident e` un'orgia di glam-rock, psichedelia e garage-rock. La ricetta comprende poi pizzichi di new wave e progressive-rock (Microwave Made), iniezioni di garage-rock (Can't Have It Both Ways), razioni di Stooges (10 Days 12 Nights) e MC5 (Sweet Sixteen), e naturalmente la solita dose massiccia di Rolling Stones (su tutto il lento strascicato, quasi dub, di Cold Joint). Dove questo procedimento possa portare non e` chiaro neppure loro. Tant'` che Don't Try Too Hard sembra una parodia del rap-metal di moda, ma con un ritornello super-arrangiato alla britpop. Sweet Sixteen (Charisma, 1997) e` un'orgia feticista di glam-rock, new wave e progressive-rock, con un suono prodotto finalmente in maniera professionale.
Il valore commerciale pressoche' nullo di quel disco causo` una bega con la casa discografica.

Le canzoni di questi dischi sono godibili, ma mancano gli acuti geniali a cui il duo di Jennifer Herrema e Neil Hagerty avevano abituato con capolavori come Twin Infinitives (Drag City, 1990) e con dischi ben superiori alla media come Cats And Dogs e il terzo. Accelerator (Drag City, 1998), dedicato agli anni '80, riscatta ampiamente le incertezze.

Herrema e Hagerty hanno forse confuso i calendari, perche' questo sembra un disco in piena stile anni '90, imbevuto di Guided By Voices e Beck. La ballata da hillbilly Yellow Kid sembra parodiare Merseybeat e folk-rock con le sue armonie vocali stonate e il suo jingle-jangle cacofonico. La struttura di Liar si rifa` palesemente al bubblegum degli anni '60.
Il disco si distingue dai precedenti soprattutto per l'enfasi quasi feroce degli arrangiamenti, a cominciare dal ritornello enfatico e dal riff da boogie sudista di I'm Ready (contrappuntato da un vagito semicomico di sintetizzatore, anche questo un marchio della corrente "lo-fi") e per finire con l'andatura tempestosa e singhiozzante di Follow The Winter. Il garage-rock chiassoso e arrabbiato di The Banana Question e` modernizzato da sincopi e cori mutuati da Breeders e L7.
Il disco si chiude con un'imitazione delle nenie decadenti di David Bowie, Stevie, che non c'entra nulla con le otto canzoni precedenti.
Il piglio clownesco di molte canzoni rimanda ai carnevali in costume dei Residents e alle cartoline surreali degli Half Japanese, soprattutto quando viene accoppiato a loop demenziali (come quello di Juicy Juicy Juice).
Il problema e` che, da quando si sono disintossicati, questi ragazzi sono retrocessi a fenomeno minore della discografia indipendente USA. Tutti i limiti sono in impietosa evidenza, mentre i pregi dei loro capolavori sono completamente scomparsi. L'unico fatto certo e` che questo e` il loro disco piu` assordante e violento.

Singles Live Unreleased (Drag City, 1998) presenta alcuni inediti. fra cui Back To School e Shockwave Rider, due numeri degni del repertorio maggiore.

Following on the heels of a killer single such as 3 Song EP (Drag City, 1998), with Deafer Than Blind, The US vs One 1974 Cadillac El Dorado Sedan, and Run Shaker Life, the new album, Veterans of Disorder (Drag City, 1999), recorded with a revolving group of session-man (bassist Dave Pajo of Aerial M stands out in the credits), abandons that program of parody and celebration and delves into Royal Trux's own obsessions. The duo is getting back in shape, as the conventional songs prove: Waterpark is unusually loud for their standards, halfway between Sex Pistols and ZZ Top; Second Skin is one of their trademark stone-age garage-rockers; The Exception wheels about with the nonchalance of Captain Beefheart's blues; the drunken and clumsy honky tonk of Coming Out Party recalls Bob Dylan's Rainy Day Women. At the other end of the spectrum, Hagerty and Herrema wail the laid-back Grateful Dead litany of Stop and the martial Jimi Hendrix dirge of Witch's Tit, not to mention the infectious Yo Se. Notwithstanding the generally superior average, and like previous Royal Trux outings, the collection as a whole sounds "thin": an undeniable songwriting talent and a knack for extravagant dynamics is not adequately matched by compositional depth. The duo is content with playing bizarre blues-rock novelties.
Beyond the song format Royal Trux has always fared better. The song format, after all, was the liability of the trilogy. This album's most positive signal is that they have recovered their perverted passion for deconstructing rock music and leaving only harmonic ashes behind them. This is evident in the collage Sickazz Doc, a frenzied "cut-up" in the style of the Fugs' Virgin Forest, and in the long instrumental jam that closes the album, Blue Is The Frequency, the most spaced out things they have done since Twin Infinitives.
While still light years away from Twin Infinitives' peaks, Veterans crowns the recovery from the trilogy's mediocre blues-rock.
(Translation by / Tradotto da Riccardo Previdi)

Seguendo a ruota i singoli raccolti in 3 Song EP (Drag City, 1998): Deafer Than Blind, The US vs One 1974 Cadillac El Dorado Sedan, e Run Shaker Life, il nuovo album Veterans of Disorder (Drag City, 1999), registrato arruolando un gruppo di session-man (tra i quali spicca anche il basso di Dave Pajo degli Aerial M), abbandona quel programma di parodia, celebrazione e ricerca che era diventato un po' la loro osessione. Il duo sta tornando in foma, come dimostrano queste canzoni convenzionali: Waterpark e` vicina al boogie dei ZZ Top, uno stile lontano dai loro standards, Second Skin e` uno dei loro classici garage-rock primitivi; The Exception trascina con nonchalance un blues Beefheartiano; l' honky tonk maldestro e ubriaco di Comin Out Party richiama Rainy Day Women di BoB Dylan. All'altro capo dello spettro, Hagerty e Herrema intonano un litania come nei brani piu` dimessi dei Grateful Dead in Stop, mentre Witch's Tit e` eseguita col passo marziale di un lamento Hendrixiano. Yo Se e` il brano piu` leggero. Nonostante un livello generale superiore alla media, come le loro precedenti scorribande, la raccolta e` piena di suoni rarefatti. Il loro innegabile talento nello scrivere canzoni e la loro abilita` per le dinamiche stravaganti non trova pero` mezzi adeguati per composizioni profonde. Il duo si accontenta di suonare bizzarre novelties blues rock.
Al di la` del formato canzone i Royal Trux se la sono sempre cavata meglio. Il formato canzone dopo tutto, era l'obbligo della trilogia. Il segnale piu` positivo di questo album e` che hanno riscoperto il gusto di decostruire la musica rock e lasciare solo le ceneri di armonie dietro di essa. Questo e` evidente nel collage di Sikazz Doc, un frenetico pezzo, frammentato nello stile della Virgin Forest dei Fugs, e nella lunga jam strumentale che chiude l'album, Blue Is The Frequency il pezzo piu frazionato dai tempi di Twin Infinitives.
Per quanto ancora lontano anni luce dai picchi di Twin Infinitives, Veterans corona il recupero nei confronti della mediocre trilogia blues-rock.

The single Dirty Headlines showed signs of renewal, and the EP Radio Video was a little sonic nightmare. The album Pound For Pound (Domino, 2000) fullfils that promise with a track like Deep Country Sorcerer that leaves behind their Stones imitations. Hagerty and Herrema have also learned to harmonize their voices. They still know how to quote the history of rock music, as they rampage through Hendrix (Call Out The Lions), Cream (Small Thief), and T. Rex (Fire Hill, Platinum Tips), but a wealth of sound effects and a casual tone that harks back to their beginnings adds a new dimension to their retro` program. (Translation by / Tradotto da Walter Romano)

Il singolo Dirty Headlines mostrò segni di ripresa, e l’EP Radio Video era un piccolo incubo sonoro. L’album Pound For Pound (2000) mantiene le aspettative con una traccia come Deep Country Sorcerer che lascia alle spalle le loro imitazioni degli Stones. Hagerty e Herrema hanno anche imparato ad armonizzare le loro voci. Sanno ancora citare la storia del rock, visto come si scatenano attingendo da Hendrix (Call Out The Lions), Cream (Small Thief), e T. Rex (Fire Hill, Platinum Tips), ma una ricchezza di effetti sonori e un timbro informale che rimanda ai loro inizi aggiungono una nuova dimensione al loro programma "retrò".

Having founded two of the most important bands of the last 20 years, Pussy Galore and Royal Trux, Hagerty already ranks among the geniuses of rock music. And his first solo album, Neil Michael Hagerty (Drag City, 2001), that comes almost as a career summary, as a final statement on what music is for him, as a revision of the themes that have always obsessed him, ranks among his top efforts (despite the synthetic rhythms and the smooth production, that somehow detract from the concept).
Hagerty has spent his life reinventing rock and roll. Even the weirdest moments on Twin Infinitives hinted at something that someone had done before. No matter how devastated his mind was and how personal his compositions sounded, Hagerty was talking about rock music. His first solo album delivers his ultimate statement on rock music.
The man's genius pops up mainly in the demented blues-rock jams Fortune And Fear (revolving around a "surfing" organ and a "ska" guitar, with hints at Santana and Iron Butterfly) and I Found A Stranger (a demonic blues and soul fest), and in the feverish space-rock of Tender Metal. But Hagerty's bizarre post-modernist science also yields Kall The Carpenter, a novelty that apes the beach combos of the 1960s, and The Menace, a novelty that mocks country music. His loony psychedelic spirit crafts the angelic anthem Oh To Be Wicked Once Again and the music-box theme of Repeat The Sound Of Joy. Know That offers a convoluted, slightly upbeat version of Suicide's electronic rockabilly.
In a way not too dissimilar from Neil Young's, each song is disfigured by wild guitar detours that one would term "acid" if it weren't obvious that they have nothing to do with drugs: they are more like snapshots of violent outbursts of brain activity.
Most of these rockers play in a neural juke-box, inside the thalamus, very early in the neural processing of instincts and emotions. This album is a shower of impulses from an electrocuted nervous system.
Avendo fondato due dei gruppi piu' importanti degli ultimi vent'anni, Pussy Galore e Royal Trux, Hagerty si annovera gia' tra i genii della musica rock. E il suo primo album solista, Neil Michael Hagerty (Drag City, 2001), che diventa quasi un compedio della sua carriera, in quanto dichiarazione definitiva di cio' che la musica e' per lui, in quanto rivisitazione dei temi che lo hanno sempre ossessionato, si colloca tra le sue realizzazioni migliori. Hagerty ha passato la vita a reinventare il rock and roll. Persino i momenti piu' originali, in Twin Infinitives alludevano a qualcosa che qualcuno aveva gia` fatto prima. Per quanto devastata fosse la sua mente e personali sembrassero le sue composizioni, Hagerty parlava di musica rock. Questo album e` il manifesto della musica rock nella concezione di Hagerty. Repeat The Sound Of Joy e Oh To Be Wicked Once Again ricordano innumerevoli gruppi di garage-rock e folk-rock. Non solo uno: e' un'intera generazione colta nella sua essenza e rappresentata. La maggior parte delle canzoni sono deformate da sfrenate variazioni per chitarra che si definirebbero "acid" se non fosse ovvio che non hanno nulla a che vedere con le droghe: sono piu' simili a violente eruzioni di attivita' cerebrale. Know That e I Found A Stranger e' rock and roll che risuona dentro il talamo, nelle fasi piu' primitive del processo di elaborazione neurale di istinti ed emozioni. Questo album e' una valanga di stimoli che sembra provenire da un sistema nervoso sottoposto ad impulsi elettrici.
Further proof of Hagerty's spectacular maturity, the supersession Tramps Traitors and Little Devils (Drag City, 2001) with Edith Frost and Smog, includes Texas Dogleg, sounding like a deranged version of Crosby Stills Nash And Young the way Royal Trux's albums sound like deranged versions of the Rolling Stones, but with a thick, loud sound that harks back to Phil Spector's productions, and Everyday, a novelty in a skewed bubblegum style. (Translation by / Tradotto da Walter Romano)

A ulteriore prova della spettacolare maturità di Hagerty, la supersession Tramps Traitors and Little Devils (2001), con Edith Frost e Smog, include Texas Dogleg, che sembra una versione squilibrata di Crosby Stills Nash & Young allo stesso modo in cui gli album dei Royal Trux sembrano una versione squilibrata dei Rolling Stones, ma con un sound più forte e denso, che ricorda le produzioni di Phil Spector, ed Everyday, una novità in uno stile distorto.

Neil Hagerty's post-modernist revision of the Sixties continues with the mini-album Plays That Good Old Rock And Roll (Drag City, 2002). Royal Trux had a "primitive", "minimal" (and often cacophonous) approach to the tradition that they were revisiting. In his middle age, Hagerty is crafting a musically more accomplished operation that highlights group playing and arrangements over the melodic skeleton. He is also stretching his wings well beyond the blues. However, the album opens with possibly a most explicit tribute to the blues revival of the 1960s, Gratitude, a languid, syncopated lament With guitar licks worthy of the old Chicago masters, vocals in the husky/raspy "born by the sun of the Delta" register, skewed vocal harmonies and a spacey, distorted Jerry Garcia-esque solo.
In Shaved a depraved Iggy Stooge-esque aria decays into a noisy, stormy Red Crayola-ish jam over a propulsive boogie bacchanal.
The lengthy, chugging Louisa LaRay features the spastic jamming and the deranged guitar solos that have made Royal Trux a landmark of modern rock music.
Those rowdy rave-ups alternate with softer, moodier pieces. Oklahoma Township delves into psychedelic folk-rock with Van Dyke Parks-ian arrangements. Hagerty concocts a wonderful recreation of spiritual and ragtime music in the catchy and sprightly It Could Happen Again (with divine backup vocals by Edith Frost). The folk-jazz shuffle of Some People Are Crazy mixes Syd Barrett and CS&N, while toying with piano, sax and violin. And more psychedelia surfaces in the confusion of voices of Sayonara, almost an appendix to Frank Zappa's America Drinks And Goes Home.
Alternately recalling a trippier Grateful Dead, a catchier 13th Floor Elevator, a looser Rolling Stones, a less sneering Stooges and a less acid Holy Modal Rounders, this album marks Hageryty's territory better than anything else he has done before. While inferior to Hagerty's first solo (if nothing else because it is so short), Plays provides more evidence of this visionary genius' monumental stature.

Neil Hagerty's new project, The Howling Hex (Drag City, 2003) is quite disappointing by his standards. Several of the songs are trivial, repetitive, predictable or simply sub-standard. Others strike a chord or two, but in a far safer territory than the one his genius used to roam. This is the Rolling Stones for a senile audience who needs to relax, not for a restless audience that wants to erupt. His take on boogie (Firebase Ripcord, blues (I'm Your Son), soul (Watching the Sands) and southern rock (Carrier Dog) is less and less original. His experiments, whether the jazzy She Drove a Rusted Shed or the seven-minute Creature Catcher, do not stand up to Twin Infinitives.

Jennifer Herrema formed RTX, a trio with Nadav Einsenmann and Jaimo Welch that released Transmaniacon (Drag City, 2004), which is both a rawer and a poppier affair than the last Royal Trux's albums. It opens with Limozine, a nasty girlish moan inscripted into a mass of abrasive syncopated sounds that parody old-fashioned hard-rock (the strand of Free and Bad Company). The riff dominates the Joan Jett-ish Joint Chief (virtually a re-write of I Love Rock'n'Roll with booming overtones worthy of Black Sabbath) and Low Ass Mountain Song. The (too short) guitar chaos of Psychic Self-defense introduces a set of more experimental variations on that theme: the distorted pop of Heavygator, the sloppy melody and droning dirty guitars of PB+J, the demented merry-go-round of Pulling Out Now, which are perhaps the most promising moments. The debut was followed by Western Xterminator (2007), which was de facto a tribute to the heavy-metal sound of the 1970s (Kiss, Blue Oyster Cult, Joan Jett).

Neil Hagerty's project Howling Hex became a full-fledged band for All Night Fox (Drag City, 2005) and You Can't Beat Tomorrow (Drag City, 2005), two albums that complement each other: the former is a chaotic rocker in the vein of Captain Beefheart (Now, We're Gonna Sing), the latter is an eccentric roots-rock detour. Both use his trademark drunk technique to orchestrate the music. The 23-song 1-2-3 (Drag City, 2006) collects the material of three limited-edition releases. Nightclub Version Of The Eternal (Drag City, 2006) sounds like Hagerty's "pop" album, basically the opposite of Twin Infinitives. The seven lengthy tracks manage to blend his unabashed self-indulgence (guitar solos, blues-rock jamming) and an acquired sense of structure.

Howling Hex's brief Earth Junk (2008) and RTX's JJ Got Live RaTX (2008) were both testaments to what a great collaboration it used to be and how much each one missed the other (artistically speaking).

La revisione postmodernista degli anni '60 di Neil Hagerty continua con il mini-album Plays That Good Old Rock And Roll (Drag City, 2002). I Royal Trux aveva un approccio "primitivo", "minimale" (e spesso cacofonico) alla tradizione che rivisitavano. Nella sua mezza eta`, Hagerty sta mettendo a punto un'operazione piu` mirata che punta maggiormente sul sound di gruppo e sugli arrangiamenti che sullo scheletro melodico. Si sta anche spingendo ben oltre il blues. L'album si apre comunque con il piu` spudorato tributo al blues revival degli anni '60, Gratitude, un lamento languido e sincopato con lick di chitarra degni dei vecchi maestri di Chicago, vocalizzi nel registro bruciato dal sole del Delta, armonie vocali sghembe e un assolo distorto/spaziale alla Jerry Garcia. In Shaved un'aria depravata alla Iggy Stooge decade in una jam rumorosa e burrascosa alla Red Crayola su un martellante baccanale boogie.
La lunga, singhiozzante Louisa LaRay e` una vetrina per il jamming spastico e gli assoli rocamboleschi che sono il pane quotidiano dei Royal Trux.
Questi rozzi rave-up si alternano a pezzi piu` soffici e atmosferici (si fa per dire) come Oklahoma Township, che s'immerge in un folk-rock psichedelico con arrangiamenti alla Van Dyke Parks (si fa sempre per dire), come l'orecchiabile e briosa It Could Happen Again, una splendida rievocazione della musica spiritual e ragtime (con controcanto divino di Edith Frost), come lo shuffle folk-jazz di Some People Are Crazy, che mescola con disinvoltura Syd Barrett e CS&N mentre giochicchia con piano, sax e violino.
A tratti ricorda i Grateful Dead piu` acidi, a tratti i 13th Floor Elevator piu` orecchiabili, a tratti i Rolling Stones piu` sguaiati, a tratti gli Stooges meno irriverenti e a tratti gli Holy Modal Rounders meno sbragati. Hageryty si diverte a tracciare i confini del proprio territorio, invandendo con circospezione quelli degli altri. Benche' inferiore al precedente solo (se non altro, perche' e` cosi` breve), Plays conferma comunque la straordinaria statura di questo genio visionario.

(Translation by / Tradotto da Walter Romano)

Il nuovo progetto di Neil Hagerty The Howling Hex (2003) è piuttosto inferiore ai suoi standards. Alcune canzoni sono triviali, ripetitive, prevedibili o semplicemente sotto tono. Altre toccano una corda o due, ma in territori assai meno arditi di quelli in cui il suo genio soleva vagare. Sembrano i Rolling Stones che suonano per un pubblico anziano bisognoso di relax, non per un pubblico che vuole scatenarsi. I suoi tentativi boogie (Firebase Ripcord), blues (I'm Your Son), soul (Watching the Sands) e southern rock (Carrier Dog) sono ancor meno originali. Le sue sperimentazioni, sia la jazzistica She Drove a Rusted Shed che Creature Catcher (7 minuti), non sono all’altezza di Twin Infinitives.

Jennifer Herrema formò RTX, un trio con Nadav Einsenmann e Jaimo Welch che pubblicò Transmaniacon (2004), che è grezzo come l’ultimo album dei Royal Trux. Apre con Limozine, uno sgradevole lamento femminile avvolto da una massa di rozzi suoni sincopati che deridono l’hard rock vecchia maniera (sponda Free e Bad Company). Il riff domina Joint Chief (virtualmente una riscrittura di I Love Rock'n'Roll) e Low Ass Mountain Song. Il (troppo breve) caos chitarristico di Psychic Self-defense introduce una serie di variazioni sul tema più sperimentali: il pop distorto di Heavygator, la sciatta melodia e le ronzanti pazze chitarre di PB+J, la giostra demente di Pulling Out Now, che sono forse i momenti più promettenti.

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