Royal Trux – 3-Song EP – Review

Royal Trux

3-Song EP (Drag City)
by Jon Sarre

“Keep on Royal Truxin’,” I hear they chanted over and over at Altamont Speedway until pool cues in their noggins bad-tripped ’em out to the point that Neil hadta hop the first helicopter back to civilization with only the words “bad scene” as explanation (if my memory of the last time I saw Gimme Shelter serves me right). Oh waitasecond. Sorry, I got confused. See, the eternal song lengths and tedious pace of Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema’s post-junk rockstavaganza mixed ’em up in my mind with some other longhaired marathon rockers; the big difference being the Dead never embarked on any kinda “3 Song EP” since they weren’t what you’d call a “singles band” (which ya wouldn’t think Trux’d be either, but, oddly enough they are).

I basically wrote off Royal Trux’s pre-1996 output as mere Pussy Galore 2nd banana semi-solo stress relief and then as post-PG heroin hangover draped in art-rock clothes. Thank You, Trux’s first legitimate “band” release (that’s to say, not simply Neil and Jennifer bangin’ on stuff in a hotel room with the “Do Not Disturb” sign tacked on the door with a dirty needle), changed my opinion of the low-life duo with that record’s weirdly canny classic rock updates (think Lynyrd Skynyrd on somethin’ harder than imported Florida bar boogiebeat), which, if devoid of most emotion (Hagerty and Herrema’s quasi-beat poetics always come off as sorta fronted), just, y’know, rocked.

The pressure to impress the layout department at Raygun must’ve been insurmountable, however, cuz RT followed up Thank You with Sweet 16, which, although a bit too gleefully trashed by the Stone to be that bad, really is that bad. A buncha other people, though (that all important rock crit fanbase they’ve got), dug it. A recent colleague/rival, M.T. Kinney, late of the Seattle/Portland Rocket, Alternative Press and, due to some Neil Hagertyesque lifestyle choices, this Earth, for example, seemed to think that producing a totally unlistenable album was some kinda masterstroke on Trux’s part.

When I attempted to figure out what the fuck that meant (via a used promo copy I bought, like, the day the record came out – it was probably Mr. Kinney’s), I came to the conclusion that Sweet 16 was simply godawful (interestingly enough, Hagerty’s former Pussy Galore employer, one Jonathan Spencer, released his Now I Got Worry slab at about the same time, which, although the polar opposite of Sweet 16, is about as equally unlistenable). What this has to do with 3-Song EP (and maybe the companion album, Accelerator, which I will not listen to unless someone gives me a gratis copy), is that bad art ain’t excusable just cuz its creator is considered an artist. It’s only bad art and, if I were given a choice, I’d rather listen to Green Day or Kiss or somethin’ equally yucky.

For the record (and of the record and definitely on the record), I dunno what a song that sounds like Steve Miller Band played at the wrong speed backed by Zep “When the Levee Breaks” thunderbeats (same ones the Beastie Boys sampled in “Rhymin’ & Stealin'”) called “The United States vs. One 1974 Cadillac El Dorado Sedan” has to do with art, same as I dunno what the somnambulistic groove deconstruction of “Deafer Than Blind” has to do with rock (Viva Las Vegas sez it has something to do with tone). The third track, the traditional Shaker ballad, “$300.00 For a Wooden Chair? That’s Outrageous!”, showcases Hagerty/Herrema’s eccentric something-more-academic-that-means-“fucking-with”-the-very-concept-of-popular-music-genres, but since it pretty much sounds like every other Royal Trux song, you’ll just haveta take the NME‘s word for it. Genius, after all, is rarely appreciated in its own time.
(2000 West Carroll St. #201 Chicago, IL 60612)