The stage has long been the domicile of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Petulant strut and knockout riffs do, after all, exist to be adored by ever-larger crowds. Anyone that’s heard Royal Trux before, however, will know that despite the spitting attitude they’re anything but a straight rock ‘n’ roll band. Something of an avant-garde rock institution, they’ve long perverted sloppy garage rock and furious riffage into something far stranger than the sum of its parts. Where many experimental acts rely on studio trickery to achieve their dastardly art, Royal Trux have never struggled to bring their patented brand of mind-fuckery to the stage, as our review of their recent Brighton show attests.
It’s perhaps something of a surprise, then, to learn that ‘Platinum Tips + Ice Cream’ is the band’s first live album in thirty years of existence. The explosive discordance of their sound has never required much in the way of overdubs – it’s always been pretty barebones, even if what’s there makes enough racket for 10 bands – so it’s hard not to question why they haven’t put out live material before. Indeed, ‘Platinum Tips…’ is everything fans would expect from a Royal Trux live album – relentlessly raw, wholly unfettered in its brazen sleazery and standoffishly noisy until the end, it’s a solid career overview that sees the band pluck songs from various of their albums and stitch them together in a way just as convincing as how they were originally presented.
Of course, picking a solid setlist is the easy part when it comes to making a great live album. The real challenge – and where many live LPs fail – is in something more nebulous and intangible. When standing in the audience at a Royal Trux show, it’s not just the ears of the crowd that feel the force of their buzzing drug-rock; rumbling bass synths and squeals of noise fully envelope the room and it’s this that goes a long way in making the band a great live act. It is, of course, an impossibility to pack such full-bodied intensity into the grooves of a record or the signals of an audio file and that’s where ‘Platinum Tips + Ice Cream’ stumbles a little. It’s hardly fair to blame the band or even those in charge of engineering and production for such a shortcoming, it’s simply the nature of such an album.
Nevertheless, ‘Platinum Tips + Ice Cream’ falls short of capturing the vitriolic essence of Royal Trux as they appear on stage. Come to terms with that simple fact, though, and ‘Platinum Tips…’ is still an album with plenty to offer. Even by the rough-hewn standards of the band’s studio output, ‘Platinum Tips…’ is a remarkably raw effort. Old favourites such as ‘Junkie Nurse’ and ‘Sometimes’ are ripped through with the cocky swagger of early Rolling Stones and the filthy dissonance of some mid-’80s weirdo punk band, while the ferocious scuzz-punk of ‘Waterpark’ adds another thick layer of fuzzfuckery to proceedings in the best way possible. Indeed, ‘Platinum Tips + Ice Cream’ is the closest thing Royal Trux have to an out-and-out rock n roll album; it’s proudly crude, righteously lewd and all the better for it. New cuts ‘Platinum Tips’ and ‘Ice Cream’ see the band pick up right where they left off, just as bird-flippingly noisy as anything before.
By and large it would be generous to point to ‘Platinum Tips…’s live renditions as the definitive versions of the songs that appear here but there is an unbridled sense of life and energy to them that’s hard to argue with. This is an album that, like many great but non-essential live albums, serves as a taster of the Royal Trux live experience, an opportunity to fall prey to the auditory assault from the comfort of a cosy armchair. Royal Trux may not radically re-work the songs here but they do alter them enough that ‘Platinum Tips…’ can offer something new for long-term fans.
Overall, then, ‘Platinum Tips + Ice Cream’ doesn’t quite do enough to present itself as a truly essential addition to the Royal Trux catalogue but, taken for what it is, it most certainly has a place in it. The duo present long-time fan favourites in exhilaratingly raw form, taking what has always been an essential part of their attitude and appeal and amping it up to 11. The results are an album that does nothing to appeal to newcomers but, then again, why should it? Royal Trux have always been been cult leaders – sonic assassins, never even attempting to pander to the mainstream. For their legions of devoted followers ‘Platinum Tips + Ice Cream’ is another inimitable entry to a rabbit hole of a discography.