Royal Trux, "Shockwave Rider" (Fat Possum)
Specially released for Record Store Day Black Friday, Quantum Entanglements presents a 14-track career retrospective that doesn't quite tell the complete story of Royal Trux, one of America's greatest rock groups of the '90s. That being said, it's a nice introduction for novices and it contains a few hard-to-find tracks, including one that's a peak in the Trux's long, gnarly career (more on that below). If it were up to me, I'd have added their heppest slow number, "Back to School," and one of their best covers, the louche Jefferson Airplane song, "Law Man." But it's never up to me.
Royal Trux's creative core of Jennifer Herrema and Neil Michael Hagerty were as adept at frying song forms into garish ash sculptures (see Twin Infinitives and Hand of Glory) as they were at busting sleazy, classic-rock moves that could make Keith Richards hurl his Jack Daniels bottle against the studio wall in admiration. For over a decade of recording and touring for the Drag City and Virgin labels, H & H's two-packs-a-day snarls perfectly complemented the barbed-wire rock attack, which resurfaced to many people's surprise on this year's respectable comeback LP, White Stuff.
But I've come here today to praise "Shockwave Rider," a bizarre psychedelic-synth sortie that first blasted my senses on the 1997 box set, Singles, Live, Unreleased. (It originally appeared on the B-side of the 1994 single "Mercury.") "Shockwave Rider" begins with a funky break some hip-hop producer ought to sample and then quickly enters a realm last inhabited by Jimi Hendrix Experience's "If 6 Was 9." But the main attractions are the Korg synth groans and Zappa-esque marimba runs that arc over and under the beats, and Herrema and Hagerty's arcane tall tale, which is related as if they're an underworld Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood. "Shockwave Rider" is a one-of-a-kind trip that's as addictive as junk.