Monday, 26 November 2012

DIGITAL WORDS / Royal Trux "Accelerator" Review

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The next in a long line of re-issues from the back catalogue of Chicago grimy rock duo Royal Trux, 1998’s "Accelerator" is back in print and being re-released by Domino. No frills and no special edition extras here, just a short sharp jab of Royal Trux’s crafted scuzz.

For the uninitiated here’s a brief history of Royal Trux. It was a simple conception: tired of being a part of D.C. garage outfit Pussy Galore, Neil Hagerty left and formed a band with his then girlfriend, Jennifer Herrema. They released their debut album in 1988 but it was their second, Twin Infinitives, a dense avant-garde double disc that defined their lo-fi, experimental capabilities. More infamous than famous, the pair were known for their antagonising attitude and being cool to the point of alienation. Their open use of heroin might have had something to do with their reported difficult reputation. They recorded their third album with just $150 having blown their advance on drugs.

Like many of their indie contemporaries they profited, financially at least, from the post-Nirvana hunger major labels had for outwardly edgy acts. In 1995, Royal Trux signed a million dollar, three album deal with Virgin but it wasn’t a contract that was made to last. Virgin made severance payments to the band rather than let them fulfil their contractual agreements. Recognising that a major label didn’t understand what they were driving at, Royal Trux took the album that Virgin paid not to release to Drag City. That album was Accelerator.

In a conceptual triptych of decade-dedicated albums, Accelerator was the final instalment of a trilogy of records. Thank You channelled the 60s, Sweet Sixteen looked at the sounds of the 70s, with putrid artwork, which seemed like the symbolic nail in the coffin for Virgin’s hope of making Royal Trux crossover a success, and Accelerator was all about the 80s. However, one does need to be directly told this as the band themselves have said that the records in question don’t actually sound anything like the decade they are supposedly based on. Rather the band employed methods and signifiers of their inspirational time frames.

Accelerator is by far the strongest and most compelling album of the triple collection. One suspects that in order to appease their big buck investors they curbed their unconventional impulses on Thank You and Sweet Sixteen, but it is on Accelerator that Royal Trux strike the ideal balance between experimentation and accessible riffs to create what is, essentially, excellently organised chaos. You can hear their awe for the Rolling Stones through the fuzz of ‘Yellow Kid,’ Herrema’s grainy, androgynous vocals are of the raspy kind that Alison Mosshart can only but wish for (Royal Trux are pretty much the band The Kills will never be), and you can detect the seeds they were sowing on the rock blues ballad ‘Stevie’ that would eventually develop into the White Stripes.

This re-release is not in aid of anything; Royal Trux are not celebrating any kind of anniversary, nor has Accelerator been tarted up with any long lost audio or outtakes, and they are most certainly not looking to make a comeback as a reunion has been absolutely refuted. It’s simply an exercise of appreciation and making damn sure that more people have access to the louche rock and roll crashes of Royal Trux.


 Written for IDOL

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