By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Exile on vain street
Like critic Chuck Eddy once said of Pussy Galore, with whom Trux singer Jennifer Herrema once performed, "Maybe you gotta live in Manhattan to understand this sort of thing." And like a local rock-crit colleague points out, Yankees go for deconstructed, dissonant, ugly rock and roll--anti-rock, if you will--because up north, where folks are surrounded by the kerrang and noise of the Big City, bands more often than not seek an escape from sound, opting to make their rock "avant-garde" (which is another way of saying it's murky and filled with wrong notes). So Sonic Youth are hailed as innovators when they detune their guitars, Jon Spencer is hailed as a roots revisionist when he wouldn't know the blues if it blew him, and Royal Trux is likened to the Rolling Stones filtered through distortion and psychedelia.
Royal Trux's is a brand of "roots rock" that is at once classic, grounded in the conventions of the '70s, and post-punk, louder and meaner than their predecessors. Throughout a career that's found them on such respected indies as Drag City, Trux has been deemed everything from a "serious rock-and-roll fantasy" to "a piece of pantomime sleaze" (both meant as sincere compliments), and singer Herrema once reproduced in its entirety Exile on Main Street during her days in the laughably overrated Pussy Galore. (Royal Trux even hired producer David Briggs, best known for his work on Neil Young's After the Gold Rush, to helm their major-label debut Thank You.)
To listen to Thank You is to tune in to a faraway classic-rock radio station late at night, when the static clashes with the music to form some freaked-out hybrid. Songs like "A Night to Remember" and "Ray O Vac" are more like fragments of songs, half-melodies banged out, fleshed out, and turned up till they resemble actual songs; they chug along like boogie-rock, coasting on Herrema's tuneless growl and Neil Hagerty's sloppy-flashy guitar. Thank You, like previous Trux records, gets by on its swagger, on its grumble, on the way this band both adheres to and mocks rock's grandest conventions. Underneath the garbage sound they even got hooks and riffs, bless 'em.
Royal Trux performs April 6 at Trees.