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Neil Michael Hagerty | s/t (Drag City)
One day prior to the release of Royal Trux's Sweet Sixteen, I was busying myself amidst the aisles of a local record shop when I overheard two young clerks discussing evening preparations for their first dose of the record. The only prerequisite seemed to be an ample supply of hash. While the Trux sound still lends itself to a sweetly altered stated, it has been some time since the band produced a full-on head record. And while fans are likely never to see Trux resume their former stance as smack-addled rock heralds, Neil Hagerty's debut spinner fits the bill quite nicely. NMH is, beyond a doubt, as close to Twin Infinitives Trux as Hagerty has gotten since that double mindfuck splashed down during the nascent 90s. Both records investigate the minutia of psych-driven acid-rock as wed to sci-fi's more paranoiac elements. The difference is this latest record, presumably, was penned sans heroin, and is all the more impressive (or terrifying) as a result. I think it is safe to say that Hagerty's brain functions on a different level than most. Psi-fi novels about chimps notwithstanding, Hagerty is a rarefied creature not too dissimilar, it would seem, from the outsider protagonists of his songs. Rendering them in song-speak, falsetto or a vulnerable, surprisingly intimate coo, Hagerty furnishes outlandish anecdotes regarding teenage headcases, loquacious winos and assorted societal detritus. Hagerty's anti-heroes move through these vignettes as if in dreamtime, or rather as if half in some distended realm of their own making. No doubt there are countless such denizens of drug hell wandering this Earth at any given moment: The question is, do they have something on us? Are they seeing what remains to us unseeable? This, to me, seems the crux of NMH; an Emmersonian construct wherein dusted transients clear the pipeline one step closer to The Oversoul. These are outdated notions, I know, especially with Leary and McKenna long gone, but something in Hagerty's offhand (yet calculated) delivery reinvigorates them. Much like Denis Johnson's character Fuckhead (from Jesus' Son), the idea of the druggie, not as cosmonaut or social pariah, but as transcendental hero feels valid. Hagerty may not represent such a figure himself (then again, maybe he does), but his cerebral evocations on this document go a long way towards making the argument. And those wondering about the sounds, well, Hagerty's compositions reflect the spectral presence of the characters within. Shimmering organ lines and effects-clogged production render everything to a wavering, atomic level. These washes are visited by squalling, multi-layered solos that manifest amidst the placidity and awkward drift like eruptions of consciousness amidst the white noise of the everyday. It's quite a ride.

G. C. Weeks
CWAS #8 - Summer 2001