These days, it can be easy for the thousands of semi-similar, underfed, and often overhyped indie bands to blend in your head. After all, how many beach goth bands with an animal name does it take to throw reverb on a Fender while screwing in a lightbulb? I dunno, man, but there will only ever be one Royal Trux. All these years later, they remain one of the most important American rock bands of all time.
There are some bands — like the Cure, Sonic Youth, Mercyful Fate, and even Sebadoh — that would bring a large portion of the place down with them if you tried to remove them from the family tree house. There are just too many other branches supported by their influence. Whether they get enough credit or not (thankfully, they’ve gotten much more in recent years), Royal Trux is one of the most ripped off bands ever. Their sense of collage, swagger, fashion, and anti-fashion don’t-give-a-fuck attitude wed to a zoned-out aesthetic has been poorly imitated by many (but without the same cool anarchic experimentation or intelligent, good songs).
Royal Trux’s first record in nearly two decades, Platinum Tips + Ice Cream, has the band tearing through some live rippers with its red hot reconfigured classics that show that the band has not lost its elasticity, chemistry, or ability to tear it up, down, and all around. “Red Tiger” oozes out of the speakers like a sexy desert hazy crawl, while the early and experimental “Ice Cream” comes off very trippy and funky, with a lot more teeth grinding and strychnine on this version. It is nothing short of a thrill to hear guitar genius Neil Hagerty (who also sings) and rock queen vocalist Jennifer Herrema ease into stone cold grit rock jam “Sewers of Mars” and shake off the dust like no time has passed. It’s just the DNA of rock ‘n’ roll in their bones: hardwired to self-deconstruct and reconstruct, baby.
A lot of people underestimated or underappreciated this band for years, but time has most certainly been on the pair’s side. Fan favorites like “The Banana Question” are here, along with a light and bluesy “Blue Is the Frequency” from the perfect three-day bender album, Veterans of Disorder. You feel like you are watching the band as the smell of sunblock, beer, and armpits fills the air; each song sort of meanders to a start and then positively slays like second nature, Conan the Barbarian-style. These are scuzz rock versions with really cool vocals that sound like alley cats diggin’ claws in hard. “Deafer Than Blind” is the best track here, giving you the feeling that alternative rock actually meant something and it was worth losing your hearing or weeding through however many crates of records to find that good mellow gold or the center of the tootsie roll pop (or any other metaphor you like).
Some people may have wanted a record of new material instead of what this is, and really, who knows if these two true rebels will ever do that? In the meantime, though, you also have tons of stuff from JJ’s funky and brazen Black Bananas or Hagerty’s super rad Howling Hex outfit to revisit, along with the many original Trux and a couple RTX records. Honestly, it was perfect for the band to come back with a live album that took just two days to make, captured their spirit of adventurism, and freshly contextualized it for new school fans while simultaneously making old school fans get big shit-eating grins. Plus, it’s a way for Royal Trux to strut their stuff and remind disciples (or too-cool-for-school types) how it is done.
All in all, Platinum Tips + Ice Cream is the rare case of a band distilling its various eras coherently and presenting the whole of its parts in a way that makes you thrilled to partake in even a small portion of punk rock alien communion.