Release Date: Mar 1, 2019
Record label: Fat Possum Records
On the first line of their first album together in 19 years, Jennifer Herrema and Neil Hagerty reintroduce Royal Trux with a joint affirmation: "This is the way it's supposed to be." You will find no habitat more natural for these longtime friends and foils than the title track of White Stuff. Cycling through shape-shifting riffs as if trying to outfox the cops, the duo sings in perfect disharmony about playing in a rock band, touring the nation, making duty-free pit stops, and, yes, using that white stuff. The song so effortlessly resituates Herrema and Hagerty in their element, it seems auto-generated by an algorithm that's learned all Royal Trux's old tricks.
When Royal Trux's late-2010s reunion led them into the studio to make new music, there was a small hope that Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema might go even further with the freewheeling experiments that have been missing from indie rock since they disbanded in 2001. Instead, for better or worse, White Stuff sounds like an amalgam of Accelerator, Veterans of Disorder, and Pound for Pound. On the bright side, the combination of Hagerty's scorched riffs and Herrema's perma-growl remains potent on "Purple Audacity #2," a song so foggily funky it should come with its own dry ice machine, and they still sound great shouting in not-quite unison on the title track and "Year of the Dog.
The sound made by Royal Trux at the height of their major-label-backed infamy was always difficult to pin down, as they were a band of contradictions, amalgams and experimentations. Oh, and drugs. Lots and lots of drugs. Their messy and ramshackle albums (check 'em out, you're in for a ride) veered from lo-fi testaments of bedraggled junkie lives to highly-polished post-grunge era tales of slightly more financially stable junkie lives.
It's been 19 years since the profoundly fucked up Washington, D.C. duo dropped their last studio album, Pound For Pound, and 21 years since their last great record, Accelerator. Aside from some, shall we be kind and say "shambolic" live shows in recent years, there's been little reason to reflect on the perma-stoned garage psych gurus, but here with a clutch of brand new material they sound, at least, awake, if not entirely revitalized.
White Stuff is the first studio album to emerge from Royal Trux in 19 years. Following a reissue campaign and the release of a live album in 2018 titled Platinum Tips + Ice Cream, Royal Trux (still the inebriated slur-as-art vocal of Jennifer Herrema and Neil Hagerty's buzzing frets) successfully pick up from 2000's Pound for Pound, rock radio/blues derivations competently managed for the album's title track. A series of resounding and polished snare beats drive the duo as they sing in unison, making "that white stuff" sound like fun.
F ew bands are as dysfunctional as Royal Trux, reunited after 13 years in which they only communicated when one of their cats died. Starting in 1988, these two co-dependent former addicts - Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema - made 10 albums of curdled rock that packed in sonic adventurism, a Rolling Stones fixation, and the kind of swagger that was never far from squalor. One eventually committed the other to an institution, so this 11th Trux album is truly unexpected - an outing constructed with the aid of email and an engineer to keep the fragile détente on course.