Earth Junk is the sixth (re)incarnation of Neil Michael Hagerty’s ever-shifting band of musical pranksters, the Howling Hex. Each Hex record strays further and further from Hagerty’s trashy brilliant rock ‘n’ roll hell child Royal Trux, leaving that strung-out gorgeous guitar in the past along with his ex-wife and ex-partner in Truxian crime, Jennifer “RTX” Herrema. This version of the Hex waltzes with New Border sass and cheeky ranchero hijinx. This record is at once a product of Hagerty and friends’ quirkiness and musical sensibilities and Austin, Texas. Where else?
Opener “Big Chief Big Wheel” is part two of "I Remember Old John Brown," as if there weren’t five albums in between. It’s like being at a tiny carnival where an organ grinder with a monkey are playing covers of the Pretty Things’ S.F. Sorrow in a town you’ve never been to and never will be to again. “Sundays Are Ruined Again” is a duel between Hagerty’s recognizable yet reinterpreted guitar and a calliope. The record just keeps building on these ideas. “Blood and Dust” is a fuzzy mess of organs and sinew, and “Coffin Up Cash” is that scab he’s picking at as it heals.
This record is by no means typical rock ‘n’ roll, Americana, or indie fare. And thankfully so. It’s noisy, it’s incoherent at times, but above all it’s a joyous record that’s totally Neil Hagerty: inaccessibly accessible.