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Neil Michael Hagerty

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Album Review

The (ultimately true) Royal Trux breakup rumors circulating around the release of Neil Michael Hagerty created a tense, chaotic atmosphere that reflected the album's character perfectly. As an extension of Hagerty (and partner Jennifer Herrema), Trux was nothing if not unpredictable, but the band's late-'90s albums found it settling into a groove that may have become too comfortable for Hagerty's restless creativity. Neil Michael Hagerty solves this "problem" with a collection of songs that avoid both Trux' subversive boogie rock and its avant-noise; it's not as explosive or loud as the duo's definitive Twin Infinitives, but it's almost as weird and self-indulgent. If anything, Neil Michael Hagerty is the sonic equivalent of Hagerty's novel Victory Chimp: chaotic, clever, and on a very specific wavelength that he doesn't bother to decode for the uninitiated. A study in contrasts, the album's sound is considerably less polished than Trux' later recordings, yet the melodious voice Hagerty uses on songs like "Know That" is a far cry from his usual snarl. Neil Michael Hagerty's mix of stiff, cheap drum machine beats, psychedelic organs, and guitar heroics lends itself to some of Hagerty's most mercurial music: Lengthy tracks such as "Kali, the Carpenter," "Fortune and Fear," and "I Found a Stranger" constantly shift and change in alternately fascinating and alienating ways. Most of the album's strange, unsettled music takes a while to sink in, but the percolating "Creature Catcher," the droning ballad "Oh to Be Wicked Once Again," and appealingly tossed-off "The Menace" are relatively accessible. The aptly named "Tender Metal" showcases Hagerty's intricate, lightning-fast guitar work, while the back porch shuffle of "Repeat the Sound of Joy" and the Trux-like "Whiplash in Park" add to the kitchen sink, stream-of-consciousness feel. Despite bearing his full name, Hagerty's solo debut is hardly the kind of self-aggrandizing effort that usually marks the beginning of a solo career — it feels more like a vacation from Royal Trux than a departure from it. And though it's a strange trip, Trux fans looking for the spirit of the band rather than a replica of its sound will find a lot to appreciate in Neil Michael Hagerty.


Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Singer/songwriter/guitarist Neil Hagerty honed his subversive approach to rock over the course of two decades in two of the underground's most prominent bands. In the '80s, he fueled Pussy Galore's anti-rock cacophony and blurred the boundaries between avant-noise and classic rock as one half of Royal Trux in the '90s. Hagerty also made a name for himself as a witty, if somewhat chaotic, satirist with his 1997 book Victory Chimp. Royal Trux's turbulent existence finally ended in early 2001, just...
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Neil Michael Hagerty, Neil Michael Hagerty
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