Friday, September 26, 2014

Royal Trux-Thank You; Charisma Records, 1995

During the initial conceptualization of this blog, Disaster Amnesiac made a mental list of records to be dealt with, along with a few interview subjects to be queried. Most of those items were checked off early on. Royal Trux's 1995 offering, Thank You, was most definitely in that initial short list, but, for whatever reasons, I have never gotten around to writing about it. This is odd, as I've often reflected, given the fact that Thank You became one of Disaster Amnesiac's top ten ever LP's within seconds of my first hearing it in late spring of that year; all these years later, I still thrill at its sounds.
Six string sound generation man Neil Haggerty starts off the album with an incessant, catchy boogie riff on A Night To Remember, and never lets up after that. Whether it's this kind of groove rhythm guitar playing there or on Ray-O-Vac or (Have You Met) Horror James, or his flipped out soloing on Map of the City or Shadow of the Wasp, Haggerty lays down some of the most righteous guitar playing put to record during the 1990's. His solo on Wasp has always been a mind blower for Disaster Amnesiac: a treatise that runs from B.B. King to Greg Ginn, and all points in between, in one minute flat. Along with his fleet fingered prowess, Neil must also be commended for his aesthetic touches on Thank You. He gets so many sweet, gritty, funky, and colorful tones from his amp, all of which are placed with really delightful precision. I don't know how much other guitar players pay attention to his stuff, but, I'm thinking that many should. Thank You is pretty much an electric guitar master class.
Not to be overshadowed within Trux, singer Jennifer Herrema puts in an equally great performance on Thank You. Her  low, gritty delivery has often reminded Disaster Amnesiac of Lemmy, but, to compare her style to anyone else's is just not fair. Where did she get the idea for this? It seems like, so often, female Rock and Punk Rock singers opt for a kind of "ultra girl" high end shout/yell (much like the way tons of Rock dudes go for that low tenor "yeeeaaah" thing). Herrema pretty much goes the opposite way, scraping her vocal chords low and rough. I've spent almost twenty years puzzling over her lyrics, the compelling stories of Granny Grunt, The Sewers of Mars, and (Have You Met) Horror James offering tons of imaginary mileage, her slurred lines on Fear Strikes Out giving surreal incomprehensibility. I recall the press for Thank You comparing Herrema and Haggerty to Jagger and Richards, and, it makes sense in a way, but Herrema's sound is more authentically Blues Punk singular, a lot less effected. It's sad that she lost the vocal foil of Haggerty, but I'm sure that her current band Black Bananas features that same front person chutzpah.
Going by the maxim that a band is only as good as their drummer, on Thank You Royal Trux provide extra insurance of greatness by utilizing the eminent skills of two skins men. Chris Pyle and Robbie Armstrong, along with bassist Dan Brown, lay down solid rhythmic moves throughout. Brown's clean and low melodic playing is always full of nice surprises: the tune grooves along, and then suddenly there are these saucy bass lines that accent certain spots perfectly. Listen to Lights on the Levee and You're Gonna Lose and hear it. As for the tandem drum team, it's just all over every tune on Thank You, with Pyle pounding out great kick/snare/hat patterns, solid at every turn, while Armstrong colors imaginatively with any and all manner of percussive implements. A Disaster Amnesiac favorite moment from them has to be their shuffled playing on the bridge part of Granny Grunt, or their chattering on (Have You Met) Horror James, or their album defining drum jam coda on Shadow of the Wasp, get the picture, right? You have to hand it to Haggerty and Herrema on that last example: here they are, giving the drummers the last word on their album. It's not many front line musicians that would even consider that. I often wonder how much the influence of Go Go, their original home town's real gift to the world, had on their percussion-friendly perspective.
The sum of all the great parts of Thank You equals a concise, rocking romp, fueled by multiple streams of influences, all of which emerge sounding through Royal Trux's very unique voice. Everything about this album, from the patina and pastiche cover to every song on its grooves, is so well regarded by this listener, even after thousands of spins. For Disaster Amnesiac, Thank You is right up there with Out of Step, or Volume 4, or ....And the Circus Leaves Town as being a singular, stand alone statement of Rock power and prowess. 


Unknown said...

Yes. It's definitely an underrated album and is a hidden gem. It deserved much more recognition than it ever got. People don't know about it. And should!

Most of the guitar leads sound like disasters that triumphantly find their way by accident and that is the beauty of them. I don't think they could ever be purposely reconstructed/recaptured intentionally (or accidentally).

The lyrics are certainly cryptic but lay out an interesting story board that still get my mind to wandering every time I take a listen. And you're right about their voices... totally unique in every way.

I will continue to spread the good word to anyone who will take a listen....

Thanks for writing this Mr. Pino!!!

Mark Pino On Drums said...

Thanks for reading, Mel! We had tons of fun listening to that one!