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The (ultimately true) Royal Trux breakup rumors circulating around the release of Neil Michael Hagerty created a tense, chaotic atmosphere that reflected the album's character perfectly. As an extension of Hagerty (and partner Jennifer Herrema), Trux was nothing if not unpredictable, but the band's late-'90s albums found it settling into a groove that may have become too comfortable for Hagerty's restless creativity. Neil Michael Hagerty solves this "problem" with a collection of songs that avoid both Trux' subversive boogie rock and its avant-noise; it's not as explosive or loud as the duo's definitive Twin Infinitives, but it's almost as weird and self-indulgent. If anything, Neil Michael Hagerty is the sonic equivalent of Hagerty's novel Victory Chimp: chaotic, clever, and on a very specific wavelength that he doesn't bother to decode for the uninitiated. A study in contrasts, the album's sound is considerably less polished than Trux' later recordings, yet the melodious voice Hagerty uses on songs like "Know That" is a far cry from his usual snarl. Neil Michael Hagerty's mix of stiff, cheap drum machine beats, psychedelic organs, and guitar heroics lends itself to some of Hagerty's most mercurial music: Lengthy tracks such as "Kali, the Carpenter," "Fortune and Fear," and "I Found a Stranger" constantly shift and change in alternately fascinating and alienating ways. Most of the album's strange, unsettled music takes a while to sink in, but the percolating "Creature Catcher," the droning ballad "Oh to Be Wicked Once Again," and appealingly tossed-off "The Menace" are relatively accessible. The aptly named "Tender Metal" showcases Hagerty's intricate, lightning-fast guitar work, while the back porch shuffle of "Repeat the Sound of Joy" and the Trux-like "Whiplash in Park" add to the kitchen sink, stream-of-consciousness feel. Despite bearing his full name, Hagerty's solo debut is hardly the kind of self-aggrandizing effort that usually marks the beginning of a solo career -- it feels more like a vacation from Royal Trux than a departure from it. And though it's a strange trip, Trux fans looking for the spirit of the band rather than a replica of its sound will find a lot to appreciate in Neil Michael Hagerty.