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Royal Trux
Veterans Of Disorder (Reissue) Kevin Mccaighy , December 23rd, 2013 06:17

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All too often, Royal Trux have been used a signifier, an indicator or exemplar of something beyond the parameters of their musical career - as "the last great couple in rock" (NME) or "the last great rock & roll band" (Bobby Gillespie). What began as a simple rock-oriented project has become a byword for cult credibility, obscurantism and lurid stories of hedonism that have no bearing at all on what Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema set out to achieve with the band. A case in point is Veterans Of Disorder, the latest in Drag City's reissue campaign. As the follow-up to the rightly acclaimed Accelerator, it is a neglected work, retrospectively placed in the unenviable position of succeeding the acknowledged Royal Trux classic. I beg to differ, for many reasons.

The band's imperial phase began not with Accelerator, but with the astounding 3-Song EP that preceded it, and lasted all the way to their swansong in 2000, Pound for Pound. But this was not understood at the time, with even the most effusive praise from the music press being couched in the most back-handed language possible. In her review of the album for NME, Victoria Segal declared that "Hagerty and Herrema are reanimators, make-up-wielding morticians touching up on-the-slab riffs with a rosy flush [...] walking with zombies, and storing what's left of the spirit of rock & roll in a leaky cryogenic chamber down in the basement of their backwoods hideout".

In viewing Royal Trux as a kind of sonic formaldehyde, Segal was entirely in keeping with critical perception of the group, but this is incorrect. In fact, Royal Trux worked in a manner befitting a different age, when hard rock bands carried out their work unimpeded by major label interference and honed their own particular aural vernacular over several albums. As their eighth album proper, Veterans Of Disorder was yet another refinement of the Trux sound, from effervescent blast of 'Waterpark' to the folksy drawl of 'Witches Tit'. The confidence that breezes through each track is a testament to the autonomy the band had won for themselves after their spell on Virgin; they were perhaps the only band to wrestle back both financial and creative freedom during the turbulent post-grunge era. Jennifer Herrema clearly channels the teak-tough vocal legacy of Nazareth's Dan McCafferty throughout, whilst Neil Hagerty is on spectacular form. His snarling riff for 'Waterpark' is one of the most concise of his career. His exquisite work on the likes of 'Yo Se!' with its delicate arpeggiated lick displays the full depth of his talents, but it is on the fantastical finale of 'Blue is the Frequency' where his explosive skills as a soloist reach their apex. Royal Trux always were a hard rock band at their core, and Veterans Of Disorder displays their innate hard rock credentials to the fullest extent.

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Smegg Tashe
Dec 23, 2013 12:57pm

Great review of my favourite Trux album. 'Accelerator' is obviously a great album, but there's more variety and strangeness on 'Veterans Of Disorder'.

This album was the first I bought when I moved to the UK in '99 and it kept me company in that winter of shit work, shit wages and no friends. I haven't listened to Trux much in recent years (though I still follow Jennifer's solo career), but whenever I pick out an old album to give a spin, it's usually this one.

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Dec 24, 2013 8:46am

In reply to Smegg Tashe:

if you like the strangeness and variety of this one, you should check out Neil's Howling Hex work... especially 1-2-3 or the 12 inchers if you can find them... Rogue Moon is also especially great

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Dec 25, 2013 10:29am

I still think 'Cats and Dogs' is the best album they ever made, but I do think their last few are underrated

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Dec 25, 2013 6:15pm

"The band's imperial phase began not with Accelerator, but with the astounding 3-Song EP that preceded it, and lasted all the way to their swansong in 2000, Pound for Pound."

Precis så!

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Moonee Ponds
Dec 27, 2013 2:51pm

"What began as a simple rock-oriented project..." - erm, NO.

There's nothing - literally NOTHING - "simple" or "rock-orientated" about the initial wave of RTX records. It was only on their third (untitled) album that the smack-addled spectre of Keef became a noticeable influence.

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Gordon Hill
Jan 3, 2014 5:36pm

In reply to Moonee Ponds:

Spot on there. The first couple of albums are completely out there especially Twin Infinitives. In no way are these the work of a couple of people just wanting to kick out the jams with some good old rock.n.roll! Nevertheless, a good review or an excellent album. That run from Accelerator through to Pound For Pound is brilliant. I like VOD the best though. That and Cats And Dogs are the two i treasure the most.

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