Jennifer Herrema of RTX goes Black Bananas

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Black Bananas
  • Black Bananas
Royal Trux called it quits in 2001, giving way to new projects led by core members Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema. The former has produced twisted sounds under his own name and with Howling Hex, but the latter has been clinging to the last vestiges of the original band, calling her group RTX and refining a queasy strain of 80s-style hard rock. Recently she cut her final remaining ties to Royal Trux by renaming her long-running combo Black Bananas, but the recent Rad Times Xpress IV (Drag City) clearly sits on a continuum that stretches back to the first RTX album, 2004's Transmaniacon.

Listening to Rad Times Xpress IV, I seesawed between revulsion and enjoyment—the former mostly on songs such as "My House," a callback to the glory days of hair metal, with processed guitar sounds chugging over reverb-soaked beats. I like it much better when Black Bananas pursue their Rolling Stones fixation, tapping into the band's late-70s disco phase (Some Girls, Emotional Rescue), albeit with a smotheringly murky sonic palette—it's like what happens when you combine a rainbow of different paint colors until you get shit brown. Herrema's druggy, indifferent howl is a classic-rock sound from another time, which makes its occasional mutation by Auto-Tune or vocoder feel even more fucked-up.

I can't say how much of the video for "TV Trouble" was staged, but its low-rent collage—band members taking hits from a bong, a crazy homeless guy masturbating while wearing a pair of bloody panties over his face, grainy video clips of car crashes, animal sex, and various phalluses—mirrors the grimy pop-culture detritus that seems to drive Black Bananas. You can also listen to "Rad Times" below. Black Bananas play Lincoln Hall on Sunday night, opening for Kurt Vile.

Black Bananas, "TV Trouble"

Black Bananas, "Rad Times"

photo: Steven Perilloux

Today's playlist:

John Butcher & Eddie Prévost, Interworks (Matchless)
Bobby Valentin, Soy Boricua (Fania)
Staple Singers, Be Altitude: Respect Yourself (Stax)
Barry Harris, Listen to Barry Harris . . . Solo Piano (Riverside/OJC)
James Carter, Caribbean Rhapsody (Emarcy)

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