Royal Trux Plow Through '80s On Accelerator

Raucous Virginia rock band pays homage to the music of the 'Me Decade' on new album.

For Royal Trux guitarist/singer Neil Haggerty, the band's recordings are not

merely random sonic experiments but carefully theorized aural symphonies.

That may be true, but to many ears, the group's albums come off as ragged

blasts of bluesy, degenerative rock.

Take, for example, their recently released nine-track album, Accelerator,

a fuzzed-out, sonically adventurous head trip in every key. Rather than

meticulously creating this music from detailed plans, the Virginia-based Trux

sound like they're exploding from the inside out.

"There's not a single sound on here that's natural," Haggerty said of the highly

processed rush of noise found in songs such as the bug-zapping dirty blues of

"Yellow Kid" and "New Bones."

With Accelerator, the Royals' purported musical theories have resulted in

raw, molten rock. It's the third in a trilogy of albums purported to celebrate the

sounds of the past three decades. Thank You (1996) paid tribute to the

'60s; Sweet Sixteen (1997) honored the '70s; and, according to guitarist

Haggerty and singer Jennifer Herrema, Accelerator is a loud, raucous

homage to the sounds of the '80s.

The group, fronted by Haggerty, 32, and longtime companion Herrema, 29,

stretched its constantly (d)evolving sound to mimic the processed feel of such

'80s pop groups as the Thompson Twins. It's a 180-degree move away from

Royal Trux's critically reviled previous album, which found the group grinding its

gears in a bloated '70s rock muddle.

"We just stripped-down the lyrics and rebelled against the dinosaur rock of the

last album," Haggerty said. "You look at that record, and there's so many words,

so many notes and, you know, so many bad reviews for that record, and it's like,

'Yeah, you're right. We're not going to do that again.' "

"Yeah, I'm pretty surprised we had the energy to see the whole thing through

the way we wanted to," said singer Herrema, whose wasted, low-slung-jeans-

and-leather-wristband look has long been the visual equivalent of the band's

musical aesthetic.

Herrema said the band knew it wanted songs such as the avant-punk track

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"Juicy, Juicy Juice" (RealAudio excerpt), with its sampled horn chart

and mind-numbingly repetitive chorus, to be stripped-down and structurally

simple. So first, the group had to build the songs up, only to tear them back

down in the studio, she added.

"We completely edited down ... the lyrics," Herrema said. "We wanted to [get] to

the point where the songs were short and an incredible amount of information

flies by without being intrusive."

This being Royal Trux, the results are far from simple.

While the skeletal, double-thump tribal drums and single-note guitar solos of

"Another Year" might remind you of '80s one-hit-wonders Bow Wow Wow,

Haggerty said the idea was to both annoy and pay homage. "There's no bass

on this album, because we felt that was the '80s thing to do," Haggerty said. "We

took stuff that you probably hated, like Thomas Dolby, with all those fake horn

sounds, but which was on the radio all the time, and we set it up so this was the

authority, and we had to confront it. The result is this record."

When it came down to actually recording the album, Haggerty acknowledged

that all the schematics in the world couldn't stop the musicians (Haggerty,

drummer Ken "Nasty" Nasta and keyboardist Timothy "Boy Tim" McClain) from

rebelling a bit. Herrema's description of the band's operating procedure breaks

it down even further. "It was just on par with the standard recording techniques

of the 1980s where rock was Muzak and vice versa. It was a strange time for

recording, with a lot of information pressed into a narrow bandwidth. A lot of

times you use effect to create an illusion, without letting the listener know what

you're doing. This time, we wanted you to hear the effects we were using and

make it more honest."

None of which really explains the confrontational, Stooges-like samba-punk of

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"The Banana Question" (RealAudio excerpt), which sounds like it was

recorded through the screen door of the corner bar down the street.

All the theories, signature Royal Trux silver skull rings and burnt attitude can

come off as so much chicanery, but Haggerty and Herrema are undaunted. "It's

not an act," they both said in separate phone interviews.

"It's about getting yours and not killing yourself," Haggerty added. "That's why

our records are not different pieces of 'the image.' It's in our best interest to

screw things up every time out."