May 16, 2005

RTX "Transmaniacon"

Okay, so what happens when noise-rock's noisiest couple splits up? Should that mean the end of their band? Does that mean one member gets fired and the other one keeps the band name alive? The lover-as-founding-band-member conundrum has certainly destroyed its fair share of bands. When Royal Trux's Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema parted ways four years ago, the bells tolled for the band. Neil went off on his own, and Jennifer disappeared, destined to be dismissed as the sexy but less respected singer of Neil's band.

Thankfully, she may have been down, but Herrema was far from out. She's kick-started her career by relaunching Royal Trux. Using the name RTX, Herrema and company create the same kind of racket that Royal Trux did. With sour-puss art-rock boy Hagerty out of the picture, RTX takes on a dimension that wasn't seen in the Trux days. With Transmaniacon, it's clearly evident that Hagerty held back Herrema's longing for poppier, listener-friendly music, because this album, if it's anything, it's catchy as hell. With flying guitar solos, Herrema's rough, scrtachy blues-rock moan and some tight-as-hell playing, there's no reason for RTX to not be considered a great hard rock band. Unlike Royal Trux, there's absolutely no irony in their sound, every moment of Transmaniacon is utterly sincere.

At times, the band's sound is reminiscent of classic hard rock of the late 1980s, and I'll be honest, I never expected the day would come when I'd use Royal Trux (excuse me, RTX) and Poision in the same sentence. Use it I must, though, because "Joint Chiefs" and "Low Ass Mountain Song" sound like outtakes from Look What The Cat Dragged In, with the vocal similarites between Herrema and Bret Michaels being quite apparent. The rest of the record has that same kind of hard hair-metal rock feel that is both shocking to hear and refreshing to experience, such as the wonderful "Stoked" and the album closing anthemic "Resurrect." And, truth be told, "Speed To Roam" should have been a hard-rock radio hit; its hard riffs, its addictive (and understated) singalong chorus and overall catchy rhythm deserves to blast loudly from muscle cars owned by dudes named Mike.

Transmaniacon is an interesting record; it's catchy, it's hard, and it's new, yet it's also clearly the sound of a veteran band making music. Herrema is coming into her own, and it's a fascinating thing to hear. Personally, as a fan of Royal Trux, I'm just happy to know that Herrema's back; she was terribly underrated in Royal Trux. It's even more exciting to know she's exploring the pop sensibilities that Royal Trux grudingly experimented with. Here's to Herrema and company producing a long discography of great albums; much like the original Royal Trux, Transmaniacon is a distinctive, shocking (and wonderful) debut to a great project.

--Joseph Kyle

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