Acoustic Sounds

Royal Trux

Thank You



Label: Drag City

Produced By: David Briggs

Engineered By: Greg Archilla, Malcolm Springer

Mixed By: David Briggs and Greg Archilla

Mastered By: Joe Gastwirt

By: Joshua Smith

October 1st, 2022



Royal Trux, David Briggs, Burn Rock and Roll To a Crisp with Thank You

The Final Album from Legendary Producer and Neil Young Cohort David Briggs is Giant and Perfect

Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema, the duo that formed Royal Trux in the late '80s, don't look or sound like one of the smartest bands of all time. I saw them open for Pavement at the Roxy Theater in Atlanta in 1997. The two looked like they had escaped from the pages of an R. Crumb comic book. Singer Jennifer Herrema 's long pale arm was wrapped with black leather straps like some kind of profane arm-tefillah. Neal Hagerty had his back toward the audience, fighting the mundane with wild guitar music. The pair's disoriented singing, sometimes apart, sometimes together, sounded like Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty's voices joining and then transforming into Captain Beefheart.

Little did I know that brilliant minds were at work on that stage! According to one interview, the two were smart enough to convince reluctant Drag City Records founder Dan Koretzky to put out Will Oldham's first Palace Brothers record. (The two, as "Adam & Eve," produced "Trudy Dies" c/w "Come In," one of Oldham's first singles.) And though the Royal Trux guitarist is the last person I'd expect to write a brilliant music review of a Justin Bieber album, he did that too, one of the few capable of writing both carefully-reasoned cultural criticism and beefed and gnarly guitar parts.

The Royal Trux album, Thank You, was produced by David Briggs, the legendary Neil Young cohort who helped him and Crazy Horse make such fan favorites as Zuma and Tonight's the Night, but also my favorite Neil Young record, American Stars 'N Bars, with its cover that is literally scraped off the bar room floor, its classic sleaze songs "Bite the Bullet" and "Saddle Up the Palamino"; the oddball hero's journey "Will to Love"; yet another Neil Young Close Encounters of the Third Kind song, "Star of Bethlehem"; the crunchy cannabis anthem "Homegrown"; and to top it all off, Neil's Les Paul manifesto "Like A Hurricane."

If you like the sleaze-ball Neil Young of American Stars 'N Bars, I think you will appreciate Thank You from David Briggs and Royal Trux, which takes all the dissolute grime which Briggs brought to Neil Young, and adds elements of punk and metal to the guitar aesthetic found in old James Gang or Lynyrd Skynyrd records. (Royal Trux dummer Chris Pyle is the son of former Skynyrd drummer Artimus Pyle.)

Joining the debauchery are bassist Dan Brown ('68 Comeback, One Eleven Heavy), along with Rian Murphy (Palace, Desert Storm) and David Berman (Silver Jews, Purple Mountains), who both provided lyrical fragments for Royal Trux to incorporate into the songs. Rian Murphy, a longtime Drag City staffer, provided some lyrical ideas for one of the album's highlights, "Shadow of the Wasp": "Maybe we were living under a good sign all that time/I'm sick of searching around tryin' to get hooked on a feeling." Identifying David Berman's contributions takes more detective work-- although credited as a contributor to the songs "Granny Grunt" and "(Have You Met) Horror James?" other lyrics seem to have all the classic hallmarks of Berman's poetry and songwriting: the weird existential nightmares (I wonder where she went when she said go?!), the bizarre transactions (I'm gonna sell Arizona to Japan!), and rituals that signal personal and political upheaval (He wanted to be king but he could only sing that's the end of a puppet and his friends!). Although these lines are not credited to David Berman, they would not be out of place on such Silver Jews albums as American Water, which actually has a song about a trip Berman took to the Royal Trux farm in Virginia, "We are Real."

Drag City released the vinyl version of an album "officially" released by Virgin Records, who scooped up Royal Trux in response to Nirvana's early '90s success. (Virgin dropped the band, I'm guessing partially because Royal Trux insisted on probably the most viscerally disgusting cover in rock history for their next record, Sweet Sixteen.) At times, Thank You by Royal Trux is also viscerally disgusting, but in a thrilling way-- the fuck-you lyrics (I won't stare at the floor anymore/ I won't hurt you if you open the door), disoriented singing, and most of all Hagerty's majestic, poetic guitar give the listener the illusion of consuming something banned, or else contraband, in the middle of the night (and a school night!), past curfew, past caring, passed out. It's tremendously sleazy fun. One more thing-- I picked up a recent re-issue and compared it to the original pressing, and the original pressing is the one to get.

Music Specifications

Catalog No: DC66

Speed/RPM: 33 1/3

Channels: Stereo

Presentation: Single LP