Royal Trux-Thank You

August 13, 2008

Royal Trux

Thank You (Virgin 1995)

http://www.divshare.com/download/5166853-2ad

There was a time in the late 90s and early on in this decade where this may have been one of the best live acts in a sorry period in rock and roll. No one really gives them the time of day anymore and their major label albums can be had for a few bucks. Ignore the ignoramuses because this band had an amazing streak of albums that abandoned the heroin-addled experimental genius of Twin Infinitives and embraced the boogie rock and Rolling Stones worship that always lay beneath the surface. Everything from 1993s Cats and Dogs to 2000s Pound for Pound stood out like a sore thumb amidst what was popular during this time, but you won’t find a more fried take on Jagger and Richards.

During the oddball rush to sign indie acts in the 90s, Royal Trux somehow wrangled a major label deal with Virgin records and got David Briggs, producer of most of Neil Young’s catalogue as well as Spirit’s best work, to take the reins of this album. His influence is readily apparent as this is their most cohesive album as he transforms the band into something resembling Southern rock and the Stones. However, there is no dolling up Jennifer Herrema’s throaty growl, but Hagerty seems like he is in heaven as he can channel his 70s heroes in the hands of a great producer.

Personally, I like Royal Trux much better during their return to Drag City with Accelerator and Veterans of Disorder. These albums reconciled the chaos of their early albums with the big riffs of their Virgin years, but I always had a soft spot for the one moment where Royal Trux was dusted off and presented to the masses as a grandiose rock band. It is even more fitting that Sweet Sixteen, the next album owed to Virgin, featured a toilet full of shit on its cover and some dense, almost Beefheartian shit that I am still digesting. God love this band and their weird and wonderful career.

Camper Van Beethoven

Key Lime Pie

http://www.divshare.com/download/4720786-c87

The advent of Ronald Reagan’s reign over American politics inspired a strong reaction from the arts. Reagan’s huckster routine was designed to sell mom, apple pie, the American Dream as a way to make us feel better about cuts in government services, the arts and a sharp increase in our nation’s deficit which plagues us to this very day. It was Leave it to Beaver shrouded in leg warmers and Hollywood smoke and mirrors. However, I would take the calculated deviance of the Reagan era over the clueless bumbling of the Bush administration. Plus, Reagan’s administration had a plan, but it was one which disenfranchised and dismantled America’s unions, arts funding and assistance to the poor.

Yes, there was “Piss Christ” and Mapplethorpe’s photography that garnered media attention as a reaction to the Reagan era. In addition, the Dead Kennedy’s cover of Frankenchrist and various heavy metal covers gained the attention of the prudish pointers of the PMRC. Yes, punk, hardcore and many artists made their disapproval heard in some low-key and high profile ways, but Camper Van Beethoven’s Key Lime Pie is one of the most caustic criticisms of the Reagan era. It didn’t resort to shock and awe, but assumed the form of thoroughly American musics like Country, folk and rock and roll.

Camper Van Beethoven was an odd combo. David Lowery was the child of an Air Force officer who pushed the country and rock and roll side of the band while the rest were artsy-fartsy intellectuals. Both sides were intelligent and adventurous, but in different ways and this cultural clash eventually caused their breakup. However, this friction is the impetus behind Key Lime Pie.

Key Lime Pie takes a look at the seedy underbelly of the 80s and the forgotten. From “I was Born in a Laundromat” where Lowery paints a picture of a woman who finds comfort in being a queen bee of a laundromat as long as she finds sexual release. “All Her Favorite Fruit” skewers American domesticity and portrays the nuclear family as a sad and pointless endeavor. “Come on Darkness” features a patron at a honky-tonk who pursues smokes, drinks and sex as a way to escape the pressures of the workweek.

The most damning criticisms come in the track “Jack Ruby” where Lowery sings:

So draw the box along quickly
Avert your eyes with shame
Let us stand and speak of the weather
And pretend nothing ever happened on that day
Grant us the luxury, ’cause all our heroes are bastards
Grant us the luxury, ’cause all our heroes are thieves
Of the innocence of the afternoons
Now we think it’s a virtue to simply survive
But it feels like this calm it’s decaying
It’s collapsing under its own weight
And I think its your friend the hangman coming
Choking back a laugh, a drunkard swaggering to your door
Now do you feel that cold, icy presence?
In the morning with coffee and with bread
Do you feel it in the movement of traffic
And days are terrible, simply forget

Key Lime Pie may be one of my favorite albums because it relentlessly attacks complacency and addresses many of the shifts in American culture which plague us today. Oh yeah, it is catchy as hell and is an amazing country album by way of indie-rock.