An offshoot of an offshoot, a side project of a side project, an alias of an alias: At this point in Jennifer Herrema’s long, convoluted career, it isn’t even worth trying to pin down exactly what she intends her latest project, Black Bananas, to be. The new outfit appears, for all intents and purposes, to be RTX, the project she’s led since the suspension of its predecessor, Royal Trux. And in the same way RTX’s output is a shadow of Royal Trux’s sporadically transcendent art-garage spew, Black Banana’s debut, Rad Times Xpress IV, is more of a dishwater dribble.
But Herrema doesn’t appear to realize any of this—which is Rad Times’ one saving grace. Relying now more than ever on her cauterizing caterwaul, the trash-punk chanteuse smears reverb like so much herpes medication over the oozing blues of “It’s Cool.” At its root, the song psychedelically smokes, but Herrema and crew mistake muck for makeup, piling on reverb to the point of implosion. The classic-rock vibe is somewhat sharper on “TV Trouble,” “Hot Stupid,” and “Overpass,” but the synth-wrapped, ’80s-up-the-ass digital effects are enough to make ZZ Top’s Eliminator sound like Robert Johnson.
Whether by accident or not, though, Rad Times hits some genuinely artificial notes, in just the right way. Herrema’s subdued, Auto-Tuned vocals on the slinky “Nightwalker” bypass irony and head straight for the ice bath. And on “Killer Weed,” her trickle-down theory of bar-metal menace bears wicked, bitter resin. Repurposing herself as a processed pop star may not end up being Herrema’s most successful stunt, especially now that she’s in her 40s and her raspy pipes are no longer an affectation. But hell, if Tina Turner could pull it off, there’s always hope.