Royal Trux

Veterans Of Disorder (Reissue)

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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