When the swaggering glam-rock guitar kicks in on “Waterpark,” the first song on Royal Trux’s excellent new Veterans of Disorder (Drag City), the last thing that comes to mind is chaos–this stomper could be an outtake from the band’s 1993 album Cats and Dogs, when its raw bluesy clatter first coalesced into a sleazy, Stonesy groove. In fact, with strains of John Lennon wafting through the second track and a one-handed Professor Longhair mambo decorating the third, it would seem that Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema have never sounded less disorderly in their career. That’s not to say they sound normal–from the weird compression of the recording to Herrema’s unsettling wheeze to the way Hagerty’s psychedelic solos explode out of the din like aliens from John Hurt’s belly, the Trux could never pass for your average white band. Amid the crashing timbales and irresistible hook of “Lunch Money,” flute lines flail and a manically strummed guitar speeds up to sound like a Mickey Mouse ukulele, while the fist-shaking chorus of “¡Yo Se!” is countered by queasy, piercing synth lines. And as the collection moves along, it does eventually live up to its title: “Sickazz Dog” wraps a constantly morphing collage around a recurring guitar riff; “Coming Out Party” is a rollicking ditty where Herrema out-Jaggers Mick Jagger against a trippy barrage of displaced pounding piano, mystical wooden flute, snake charmer incantations, and Hagerty’s jazz extrapolations; and the closer, “Blue Is the Frequency,” is little more than a drone accompanied by six or seven minutes of Hagerty jamming like Carlos Santana. The record’s so good it’s even changed my view on the band’s two bigger, dumber albums for Virgin–where I once dismissed them as mediocre major-label compromises, I’m now beginning to think they were just part of a master plan to keep things in constant flux. Friday, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. Also Friday, 6 PM, Borders Books & Music, 830 N. Michigan; 312-573-0564. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Nina Gouveia.