Royal Trux: Hand Of Glory (Drag City)


Royal Trux
Hand Of Glory
Drag City

Perhaps it is not surprising that the legendary noise-rockers Royal Trux would perform a reunion show at the same time a reissue of their final album comes out—and, to make it even more “cosmic,” a final album that was composed of the band’s very first recordings—because, you know, that’s how the duo of Jennifer Herrema and Neil Michael Hagerty do things. Marching to the beat of their own drummer ever since their very first release, they became known as much for the way they did things than their music.

So it isn’t really surprising, then, that Hand Of Glory is a strange record, even by Royal Trux standards. Considering their early records were sludge-feats with blasts of noise thrown in the mix, Hand of Glory doesn’t surprise in that way. No, what’s going on here can be more correctly identified as two very different sides of Royal Trux, one that can only be fully appreciated by the vinyl format. For what purports itself to be a collection of “lost recordings,” Hand Of Glory is a very deft study in contrast.

Side one, entitled “Domo Des Burros” begins with a programmed drum track, and over the next nineteen minutes, Hagerty and Herrema add various tracks; unintelligible spoken word parts, out-of-tune guitar, plinking piano, and other various rhythm and percussion tracks. With the initial drum track remaining the only constant throughout the entirety of the song, “Domo Des Burros” is oddly appealing; slightly childlike, you’ll find yourself diving back into it in order to hear what you missed in the previous lesson. What was it that Hagerty was rapping? Did I really hear an accordion? Is he really comparing his love as a maggot in rotten meat? It’s one of Royal Trux’s most interesting songs, and one of their most groove-laden, comparable only to b-side “Shockwave Rider.”

Side two is also a noise piece, but it’s a very different beast. A five-song “suite,” if you can call it that, entitled “The Boxing Story,” this is noise without a melody, structure, or anything resembling a definable shape. It’s manipulated tape loops, and that’s about all I can tell you about it. You can hear screaming, drum beats, and guitar, a “sample” of a jazz band playing “Stardust,” but you gotta get through a ton of feedback.It’s confounding and perhaps asks way too much of the listener.  Where “Domo Des Burros” has a charm based upon its randomness, it’s the randomness and weirdness that makes one turn it off, as to call it “listenable” would be either dishonest, or downright sadistic.

Still, Hand Of Glory served as an oddly appropriate career ender, with the band coming full circle by providing the world with challenging, compelling music—and showing that said mission was well engraved in the band’s psyche from the get-go.

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