Neil Michael Hagerty

Plays That Good Old Rock and Roll

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Similar to the way that Royal Trux's work after Accelerator felt like they were covering -- and re-covering -- the same territory that album mapped out, Neil Hagerty's second solo album, Plays That Good Old Rock and Roll, isn't strikingly different than his debut, Neil Michael Hagerty. Like that album, Plays That Good Old Rock and Roll is willfully uneven, and revels in it: the laid-back reggae rock of "The Storm Song" and the wah-wah wackiness of "Oklahoma Township" are both throwaways, but have a stoned confidence that somehow keeps them on the good side of wanky self-indulgence. Initially, the most striking thing about this album is its pristine production. Much cleaner than Neil Michael Hagerty or even Trux's most polished material, it's as if the crystal-clear sound quality exists to exaggerate the tossed-off, mercurial quality of songs like "Shaved C*nt," which moves from a mellow, almost pretty intro to a murky guitar-and-brass freakout. The contrast between the album's immaculate sound and shambling technique results in as many unfocused moments as it does inspired ones, and nothing quite reaches the rambing, stream-of-consciousness brilliance of Royal Trux's best work, but eventually Plays That Good Old Rock and Roll coughs up some memorable songs, including the funky, elongated "Louisa LaRay," which sounds like a refugee from Veterans of Disorder; the bizarre gospel-rock of "Some People are Crazy"; "Rockslide," a surprisingly pretty, folky ballad; and "Sayonara," an entertaining but strangely subdued journey into the poppier side of Hagerty's sound. The experimentalism that has shaped his career since his days in Pussy Galore resurfaces on "Gratitude," a schizophrenic mix of pretty strings and muffled, multi-tracked vocals, which is made all the weirder by the unusually straightforward finale "It Could Happen Again," a song so breezy and accessible that it's practically a ditty. Though Plays That Good Old Rock and Roll picks up some momentum in its second half, it's still an odd album for a man whose discography is made up of nothing but odd albums: An abbreviated, half-hearted mix of accessibility and avant-garde leanings, this album doesn't quite succeed in being as entertaining for Hagerty's audience as it probably was for him to make it.

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