Neil Michael Hagerty | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Neil Michael Hagerty


Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe



Although Royal Trux guitarist Neil Hagerty has insisted that none of the songs on his recent solo debut, Neil Michael Hagerty (Drag City), are autobiographical, more than a few lines seem self-referential. "When it comes down to going nowhere / I cover more miles than any other man," he sings in a palsied falsetto on "I Found a Stranger." The song's about a potentially criminal relationship, but the couplet could easily apply to Hagerty's circular but peripatetic career, and the album could function as a tidy summary of the same: disturbing twists on Americana and guitar psychedelia delivered with untamed eloquence. It's an obsessive little record, made smaller by canned rhythms: Hagerty plays all of the instruments himself, building his songs on charmingly primitive electronic grooves. "Know That" cribs a hook from the disco-era hit "Rock the Boat," while the weird, galloping beat, monotonous organ chords, and acidic guitar of "Tender Metal" are offset by a wobbly but sensitive croon. Mostly acoustic tunes like "Repeat the Sound of Joy" and "The Menace" sound like preblues relics, played on what sounds like ukulele, violin, and slide whistle, but more often than not what you hear is Hagerty's distinctive electric guitar spew, which sometimes qualifies as Hendrixian wanderlust and sometimes comes off as the musical equivalent of Montezuma's revenge. On this tour Hagerty is traveling with a four-piece band that includes drummer Tim Barnes and sometime Trux bassist Mike Fellows. The French Kicks and the Walkmen, a new project from former members of Jonathan Fire*Eater, open. Thursday, June 7, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/K. Stabler.

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  →