By Mike Appelstein
By Daniel Hill
By Roy Kasten
By Kris Wernowsky
By Chaz Kangas
By Joseph Hess
By Julie Seabaugh
By Mike Appelstein
If you're like most rockers out there, you'll probably hate Royal Trux, so don't even bother. They're a clutter of a band (consisting of Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema and a revolving door of bassists and drummers), the product of a couple of brainiac burnouts who, like the mathematician who gets lost inside his equation, are way too tangled up in rock to ever fully extricate themselves from the mess they've made.
The nuts and bolts of Trux, though, are as follows. He: used to be in Pussy Galore with Jon Spencer. She: didn't. They: released two fucked-up, scatterbrained junkie masterpieces: Royal Trux and Twin Infinitives, (both on Drag City Records, out of Chicago), then released a couple of Stones-y blues-rock masterpieces. She: grunts, groans, moans and poses. He: is the most interesting rock guitarist of the past 20 years, hands down, no shit. She: was in a few Calvin Klein ads when the whole "heroin chic" thing was going on. He: ditto.
As a band: they sneaked through the backdoor of the Nirvana signing frenzy, ended up with a huge contract with Virgin Records (according to their Web site, "When the smoke and mirrors had cleared, Virgin Records had signed Royal Trux to a three-album, 1.4 million dollar deal. Everything was in place. Neil and Jennifer purchased a house in the country and a big sports car."), recorded two baffling major-label records (the last of these, Sweet Sixteen, generated venomous contempt from Truxheads from their Web site: "the densest, hardest-to-get, most hated Royal Trux album since the days of Twin Infinitives") that didn't stand a chance in hell of breaking into the mainstream, and were promptly dropped by said major label (according to their Web site: "The legal hassles so deadly to so many groups in history were no match for the Trux, due to foresight and clever wording in their contracts. Once the buyout money had been received, they were ready with the next record.").
Their next records (back on Drag City), last year's return-to-brilliance Accelerator, which contains the glorious, rambling "Juicy Juicy Juice," and the brand-new Veterans of Disorder, are more cohesive relatively speaking Trux records. Like all of their music, on Veterans of Disorder, the band constructs rock structures but intentionally bangs them together loosely, so they can collapse with a single finger nudge if need be. They thrive in juxtapositions and baffling connections that tread dangerously close to irony they play with white-trash culture on Disorder's first cut, "Waterpark," but glue it next to a remarkable Sticky Fingers-esque piano ballad.
But, truth be told, it'd be hard to imagine "getting" the Trux vibe if you've never heard them before. Herrema's got a voice that borders on incredibly annoying and contrived, but if you listen long enough, you forgive her. The entirety may grate on you over an extended period the sound of brainiacs intellectualizing rock nonstop can get old. But the most impressive aspect of Royal Trux is that, though they are intellectualizing it, they're rarely pretentious; loose rock is what they obviously love and what they make, and their crooked vision of its potential is wholly inspiring. Opening the show is San Francisco blues-cabaret clanger Mark Growden and St. Louis' best new duo, Puerto Muerto.