Pop music can be a difficult terrain to navigate: just what do you feel okay listening to, and can you admit to it? This issue is at the heart of dozens of websites (like myspace.com and last.fm) and grips millions of young people searching for their Pan.
Myself, I pretty much decided that I’d stick with Royal Trux about seven years ago. For me, their blend of free jazz, 70’s opiate-rock, RnB, boogie-woogie and smart, personal, witty, political lyrics was enough. Despite my liking for bands such as The Fall, I am still certain that Royal Trux sum up what it is I want pop music to be: cool, sexy, angry, bored, wasted, wise.
Neil Hagerty, one half of Royal Trux is my first pop music hero. He was a guitarist in Pussy Galore, a band now confined to the ‘most mental album I own’ category (a bit like Royal Trux?!)… and while I’m unsure as to how much influence he had on the values of that group, I’m aware that he was behind their covering the entire Exile On Main Street album. A declaration of intent, perhaps.
Through their albums, Royal Trux have covered enough material for a complete website or two (see the links in my sidebar). Suffice to say, I drank a bottle of vodka the night they broke up. Stupid of me. It should have been juice. Since then, Neil Hagerty has released a series of albums (firstly solo, now with The Howling Hex), all of which I’ve found to be entertaining, challenging and good pop records. My favourites are probably the two solo/band crossover records, Niel Michael Hagerty – The Howling Hex and The Howling Hex – All Night Fox. Continue reading Neil Hagerty, Ian Svenonius: Two pop music heroes you may not know but, like, should
Aged 13, free jazz was something I couldn’t understand. It sounded to me like Iggy Pop’s description of punk rock: it sounded to me like “a load of trashy old noise”.
I hadn’t realised that it was in fact “the brilliant music of a genius”.
That genius, Ornette Coleman, is one of the key proponents of free jazz and the inventor of harmolodics, a music theory associated with the avant-garde music scene, dedicated to freeing composers and performers from the rigid structures and rules prevalent in the western tradition.
It is a theory employed in rock music too. Yes, this is about Royal Trux. Talking about harmolodics, Neil Hagerty says:
“harmolodics is not a comprehensive controlling or rigid philosophy (at least not to rock and roll) but almost a substitute for that language and efforts to control music (which is an entirely abstract thing) and make a metaphor of it. It returns the composition back to the musician and allows each musician to select functions for their labours rather than solicit a class of intervention because of the misconceptions that always arise when music meets commerce.”
Harmolodics, together with jazz as a whole, deserves recognition as one of the great gifts America has given to the world. It’s about music without the rules, and it sounds all the better for it. For me, its influence on Royal Trux’s music is magnificent: they forced me to listen to music in a new way. I still find it hard to completely understand it, but harmolodic theory lies behind some of my favourite music. So let’s hear it for Ornette Coleman and harmolodics!
New-ish records I have been listening to recently:
The Howling Hex – You Can’t Beat Tomorrow
This is Neil Hagerty’s latest album and a sort-of follow up to All Night Fox. he kept the band name this time, but the music is completely different. He’s added some odd syncopated electronic percussion and more acoustic guitar than in All Night Fox. Certainly he seems to be going for a sound that resembles listening to a band from outside the Hall. Favourite tracks: Apache Energy Plan (this is a theme continuing on from earlier Neil Michael Hagerty albums, but I still don’t know what it means); You Can’t Beat Tomorrow; No Numbers.
1 out of 1 – Buy Here Download ‘Apache Energy plan’ from Drag City here.
The Fall – Fall Heads Roll
I really like this album. Mark E Smith sounds a bit more like Shaun Ryder than he used to, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that he’s managed to produce a tight, thumping album. Out of ‘new Fall’ records, this is one of the best. The big single: I Can hear The Grass Grow is pretty melodic, but then it’s a cover. Actually, the version I have on my Complete Peel Sessions is markedly better. Anyway, both of these albums are perfect listening for the fade to winter: they inject a little bit of summer into every listen. But just a tad.
1 out of 1 – Buy Here