I can still remember the first time I heard the desolate, god-awful noise on Pussy Galore’s Groovy Hate Fuck, because ever since that day I’ve followed the band’s side projects, particularly the works of Neil Michael Hagerty, with devotion. After the 2001 demise of his second band, Royal Trux (the other main outgrowth of the Pussy Galore breakup was, of course, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion), Hagerty’s guitar work started carrying a dirty, stone-cold vibe not present since the prime of the Stooges and the Stones.
And so XI is a culmination of the progression of Hagerty’s two-decade-long career, which means it’s varied rather than cohesive. It contains elements of the carefree mess that was Pussy Galore, the vibrant guitar work that brought him to life during his time with Royal Trux, and the songwriting sensibilities he developed as a solo artist. This does have its drawbacks: The undercurrent of the record is, oddly enough, almost danceable, and the meat of it is an avant-rock mess created by an array of horns blown with no real direction and crunchy guitars swarming above the rest of the mix. All the while, he’s trying to develop a sense of lyricism, but it becomes hard to care what words are coming from his mouth. XI has its moments, but its lack of direction is apparent, and the album never really commands attention.