Royal Trux’s Neil Hagerty returns with Knuckleball Express (Fat Possum), out April 17th, the electrifying new album from his long-running project The Howling Hex. While he may be best known as one half of the critically confounding Royal Trux, Hagerty has thrived and survived beyond many of his subterranean peers from the late 1980s by staying true to his school of eccentricity. This supercharged collection of guitar-heavy choogle proves he’s still throwing heat in unexpected directions.
Recorded over eight days in Hagerty’s home of Denver, the album finds him teamed up with a brand new musical squad. The second most prominent voice and guitar featured comes from Nicole Lawrence, who has recently been seen on stage with Mary Timony and King Tuff. Thanks to a meaty mix by veteran producer Clay Jones (Modest Mouse, Elvis Costello, Townes Van Zandt), it’s as slick as the Howling Hex has ever sounded without losing any of their off-kilter scorch.
For this 10-song set, Hagerty drew on influences from the spooky smoothness of the Atlanta Rhythm Section and psychedelic repetition of the 13th Floor Elevators. Reveling in the human qualities and inconsistencies of a real rock and roll band, the quintet recorded live off the floor, often jamming long beyond where you hear them fade out.
“It really comes down to making something people want to listen to without throwing it out the window,” says Hagerty. “I didn’t want this to be an album everybody feels like they need to hear because it’s so cool. I’m old enough now that I don’t have to carry the burden of appealing to snobs anymore. No one’s going to know who I am or what this is, and that’s the great thing about it. It’s the least I could do after all the fucked up shit.”