In 2004, Jennifer Herrema released the debut album from her post-Royal Trux band RTX. Royal Trux had been a favorite band of mine for a few years and all of the Neil Hagerty solo albums had been great so far, so I was really excited about this new project. I took the September 24th release date off of work so that I could spend the whole day smoking weed and listening to the album, but was disappointed when Rainy Day Records‘ shipment from Touch and Go (Drag City‘s distributor at the time) didn’t show up that day. I was even more disappointed when Rainy Day‘s order came in the next day and I finally heard Transmaniacon. What a shitty record! 11 songs of fairly straight forward bubble gum metal. Not what I was expecting from the co-leader of one of the most forward thinking bands of the 90s. Herrema‘s vocals were still as good as they had been with Royal Trux, but the music just wasn’t that interesting and it was a bummer that the best song on the album, “Joint Chief“, was just the lyrics to her old band’s song “Shockwave Rider“, except with stadium rock guitar riffs behind it. I gave each new RTX album a listen whenever they came out, but they just didn’t do it for me.
Then in October of last year, Drag City Records announced that Herrema‘s RTX had “Split into ‘Black Bananas’,” and that the new band’s debut, “Rad Times Xpress IV” would be out in 2012. With the announcement was a 40 second animasher video with a clip from their song “Do It” set to a montage of clips from the children’s show Bananas in Pyjamas. Those 40 seconds were more interesting to me than the combined RTX discography. It was funky, there were goofy noises in the back ground, Herrema was singing about how she does what she wants when she wants and knows how to do it. It was closer to the futuristic electronic weirdness of Royal Trux‘s Radio Video ep than the beer commercial sounds of RTX.
So here we are in mid-February, 2012 and Rad Times XPress IV is out, and while it’s the step in the right direction promised by the short video for “Do It,” there’s still a ways to go. Some of the songs are very good. “TV Trouble” kinda sounds like Jennifer Herrema‘s Haunted Graffiti covering ZZ Top‘s “Legs,” “RTX-Go Go” has some funky electronic basslines and sweet guitar licks, and “Do It” is even better when it’s longer than 40 seconds. Some of the songs aren’t as good. “My House” sounds like Poison (seriously, I was asked why I was listening to Poison at work), “Foxy Playground” is straight up boring, and “Killer Weed” is one of the least interesting songs about dank nugs in a while (and I generally give songs a few bonus points if they’re about pot.)
Black Bananas are a lot more enjoyable than RTX, and Rad Times Xpress IV has grown on me in the 25 plays that it’s racked up on my iTunes (“TV Trouble” and “Do It” have gotten about 20 more plays each), but it hasn’t grown enough for me to recommend it as a whole. I will definitely stick with them enough to check out their next album though, especially if Herrema continues with this new direction.