Nobody does dissipation better than Royal Trux. Riding the down-ward spiral of smack and slack through four LPs and countless seven-inches, guitarist Neil Hagerty and anti-diva Jennifer Herrema have spent nearly a decade alternately killing rock and returning it to its nasty, dirty roots. They put the “grand” back in the funk railroad, resurrecting the '70s dirtbag aesthetic into indie-rock stardom — Hagerty and Herrema as the junkie “Sylph of Filth” and the space-case trash queen. In his former band, Pussy Galore, Hagerty was the rockist counterpart to John Spencer and his intellectual mindfuck. When the Stones-obsessed Hagerty convinced the Pussy crew into honoring/desecrating Exile on Main Street in its entirety, it wasn't deconstruction he was after — he wanted to stand in Keith's boots, if only for a day. If you want to be a rock star, just act like one.
And now, the band most famous for blowing an entire Matador advance on dope actually has a shot at the big time. On Thank You, their major-label debut, Dirty Mary and Crazy Larry get the cocksucker blues, letting that early-'70s Stones fetish take over completely. No more of that impenetrable, non-linear Twin Infinitives stuff; picture a cleaned-up Cats and Dogs with even more verse-chorus-verse. Hagerty and Herrema put together a “real” band, adding a bassist and two percussionists, then hired producer David Briggs, known for his work with Neil Young. The effect is Let It Bleed played in “The Sewers of Mars”: immediately accessible raunch 'n' roll that sounds more and more fucked-up the longer you listen to it. Trux spent so much time cooking down the blues into ugly, little brown nubs that they can't fit the pieces back together again. An earnest backup band props up the two wigged-out, rag-doll leads, only prolonging the inevitable falling apart. It's nerve-racking — and addictive.
Take the sex, sadness and anger out of the blues, and what do you have left? Groovyhatefuck music to soil your soul. Too narcotized to feel anything but “burned,” Trux wants to suck everyone into their diseased underworld. “Granny Grunt” sells crank to truck drivers; “Horror James” paws little kids. “You're gonna lose,” Herrema taunts, over and over, and she lets you know it starts early. “When I was 12 and my ass was up for grabs,” she deadpans in her cigarette-burned snarl, copping her moves from the teenage-runaway handbook. A pair of burnouts imitating rock stars from the start, Royal Trux is one of few indie acts to admit their hunger for superstardom. The irony is, it'll never happen. They can't stop rubbing our noses in their stink.
Von Lmo (pronounced “El-mo”) claims that he was born in the black-light dimension in 1924, that he spent time on the planet “Strazar” and that he jammed with such luminaries as Hendrix during the '60s and Sun Ra during a brief stopover on Saturn. While some of that's pretty tough to verify/swallow, it's relatively safe to say that Lmo played in some seriously avant-garde, conceptually seminal New York bands in the '70s (e.g., Red Transistor, which Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore cites as an influence).
On Christmas Day 1978, Lmo debuted his self-titled “ultimate rock band” at Max's Kansas City — where they later played their swan-song show in 1981, shortly after the release of their Future Language LP. Some observers offhandedly dismissed the album as a low-rent, silver-spacesuit Devo knockoff, but others saw enigmatic genius; critic Chuck Eddy, for example, later pegged Language as one of the “Top 500 best heavy-metal albums in the universe.” Regardless, Lmo effectively fell off the face of the earth after that last Max's show. The party line is Lmo returned to Strazar to deal with an ecological crisis, though he admits that a voluminous intake of psychedelics also played a role.
Fast-forward to last year's Cosmic Interception CD, Lmo's return to the earthly music scene (after some inspiring extraterrestrial contact during suspended animation). While similarities exist to artists like Suicide and Hawkwind, there's enough idiosyncrasy here to put this saucer in its own solar system. The robotic title track kicks things off with Lmo transmitting infrared soundwaves and cosmic messages; then it's all aboard the Von Lmo space-rock party train, as the Humanoid in Black takes us on a monomaniacal interstellar excursion. From the first stop at “Radio World” to the reprise of Lmo's classic “This Is Pop Rock,” the Lmo locomotive of singlemindedly relentless riffs and rhythms chugs along, well-augmented with blunderbass, sci-fi synths, catchy no-waveish tenor sax lines, neutron-bomb guitar and Lmo's astro-biker lyric barking. The ride's high point is the eight and a half minute Jerry Lee Lewis-meets-Motorhead detonation of “Shake, Rattle & Roll,” and the CD terminates with two otherworldly remixes of the title track.
This disk sounds cartoonishly New Wave in spots, which actually adds to the overall fun factor, and the whole package should translate well live. Best catch Lmo before aliens do.
Von Lmo blasts off Sun, Feb. 26, at the Kilowatt in S.F.; call 861-2595.
(NO HIT RECORDS)
If there's anyone out there who doubts that the bitching, moaning and mumbling of heroin-addicted college dropouts is growing increas-ingly tangential to the True Meaning of Rawk and Fugging Roll, may I have your attention for a moment? Please notice that large numbers of Wild Old Men are being (re)discovered in whatever garages and fast-food kitchens they've retired to. Then they're being dragged into studios and sent out on tour, where they proceed to rock big ugly rings around all the skinny, pimply little self-obsessives of the Current Alternative Scene.
Latest on this amped-up, hyped-out circuit is Ronnie Dawson, who was a scrawny teenager with a flattop, a baggy suit and a big guitar back in 1959. He knew what rock and roll was good for, and the Midwestern mothers knew to lock up their daughters when he was on the prowl. Monkey Beat sounds like reissues of his early obscurities; the only hint that they're not — given the unforgivable paucity of the liner notes — are covers of songs by Reverend Horton Heat and the Ray-O-Vacs, who probably weren't born way back then. That Dawson leans to the hillbilly side of rockabilly is evidenced by covers of “Mule Train” and “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” but on the whole this CD is a slice of upright-bass-spinning, chased-by-the-devil-in-a-V8-Ford, real American rock music. Thank god for the Wild Old Men of Rock and Roll!
Ronnie Dawson plays the DNA Lounge in S.F. on Thurs, Feb. 23; call 626-1409.