Recordings

Sweet Sixteen is even better. To the extent that most would care to decipher them, the lyrics tackle the same old concerns: sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll in-jokes. It's the musical settings that matter. Like kids in a candy store binging on every treat they were ever denied, Haggerty and Herrema spend Virgin's dollars indulging in all manner of studio fun, lovingly reconstructing every '70s sound they ever smoked a bong or nodded off to: Sly Stone-style big-band funk ("The Pick-Up"), Allman Brothers twin guitars meet prog-rock synths ("Don't Try Too Hard"), stoner country-blues-jugband shuffle ("Roswell Seeds & Stems"), and even ultra-ironic Abbey Road-era Beatlemania ("Can't Have It Both Ways").

Of course, Redd Kross and Jellyfish/Imperial Drag (to name but two) have already built winning pop from this junkyard wreckage. But while the members of Royal Trux came to the party late, they arrived with their arms full of treats: The glam-slam Stones-meet-Sabbath proto-metal of "Morphic Resident" induces near constant boom-box replay. And the Truckers put their own unique spin on things: The attitude and posing seem to have purpose when the tunes are this solid. Haggerty has a great, gravelly rock 'n' roll growl, and nobody since Marlene Dietrich has made smoking such an art form.

--Jim DeRogatis

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