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

Neil Michael Hagerty 

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Neil Michael Hagerty is a stylistic drifter: as a member of Royal Trux and more recently as a solo artist, he's floated from weird psychedelia to primitive preblues ditties to Rolling Stones raunch and back again. His sprawling third album, Neil Michael Hagerty & the Howling Hex (Drag City), plays up his peripatetic tendencies: it's 21 songs recorded in four different clubs and studios with a shifting roster of players. "Watching the Sands" takes a heartfelt stab at southern-fried soul, "Firebase Ripcord" offers swaggering rock 'n' roll with meaty baritone sax supplied by sometime Chicagoan Matt Bauder, and "Clermont Heights," a fart of faux-collagist chaos, simulates the disorienting muck of Twin Infinitives-era Trux. A lesser artist might have turned such a project into a scattered collection of genre exercises, but Hagerty's shopworn voice and wah-wah wizardry leave their imprint on each and every tune. A couple of live tracks emphasize his druggy guitar solos, which abandon clear narrative lines to stagger in confusion, but otherwise the album supplies a road map for the strange little universe he's created over the last decade and a half. On this tour Hagerty will be backed by bassist Josh Abrams and drummer Dan Sylvester--a jazzy Chicago-based rhythm section that ought to make the jams a little more elastic. Subarachnoid Space and Paik open. Saturday, May 31, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.

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

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