Royal Trux sells out with 'revamped trash-rock aesthetic'

By Noah Lopez

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Royal Trux

Thank You

Virgin Records

Out of all the chaos that ensued when venerable rock deconstructionists Pussy Galore fell apart in the late '80s, nothing could be more surprising than the success of PG splinter group Royal Trux.

Former Pussy Galore members Jennifer Herrema and Neil Hagerty brought their junkie-addled take on early '70s cock rock to Royal Trux in 1988. Since that time, Royal Trux has released four albums and a handful of singles, the critical acclaim of which has brought them to their first major label contract and debut, Thank You.

The surprises attached to the band's first major label signing are many. For one, it's surprising that the band and its chief members are even still around. Hagerty's and Herrema's heroin problems are legendary, as are the conflicts they've created with other labels. The two blew a recording advance from Matador records on smack, and there have been extended periods of time where the two didn't have a living situation to speak of.

Also seeming to stand in the way of major label success is the trash-rock aesthetic, held over from the Pussy Galore days, that has remained ingrained in the Royal Trux sound. In fact, the two other major PG offshoots, Boss Hog and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, have, for the most part, lost most of the noise that at one time marked all the Pussy Galore excursions, and have adopted a more accessible sound. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that Royal Trux was the first PG related band to sign to a major, especially considering the more established commercial success that Boss Hog and the Blues Explosion have had.

In the band's press release, Neil Hagerty calls the new album their "first album," insinuating that the work leading up to Thank You was nothing more than demo work. Upon listening to the album, this statement comes across like a bold euphemism. Never before in the annals of modern rock history has a group revamped their sound so deftly as Royal Trux has for their debut album. Perhaps Hagerty should have just uttered the dreaded words that will always perpetuate the fabled indie vs. major label debate "We sold out."

Thank You is a tiring knock off of early '70s Rolling Stones. And while Hagerty played on Pussy Galore's mythical version of the Stones' Exile on Main Street album, he is unable to pull it off here. Thank You never rises above watered down Red Red Meat, its songs full of rock cliches and boredom. It seems that the closest Royal Trux can come to reliving '70s rock is by strutting out bad Urge Overkill attempts at the stadium cock rock of the era. But while UO has a tongue firmly placed in cheek, Royal Trux is sincerely trying to recreate the sound. No song stands out as particularly bad or good, they all just seem to be rammed together in a mediocre mess.

It will still be interesting to see how the mainstream reacts to the infusion of Pussy Galore-related trash-rock. Unfortunately, we'll have to wait for the recently- signed-to-Geffen-records Boss Hog or Jon Spencer (who is touring with the Beastie Boys) to find out.

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