Thursday, March 14, 2019

Album Review: Royal Trux - White Stuff

Usually, the main reason for a band to reunite is money but I can't imagine there being much to be made from Royal Trux, and that's just one of the reasons why White Stuff is one of the most unlikely reunion records ever to be released. To absolutely no one's surprise, the reunion seems to already be over, but then again maybe not, who knows? Some things never change and chaos, volatility and dysfunction still reign supreme in the Royal Trux camp.

Another thing that doesn't change is the fascination with drugs, as the album title and cover suggest. In fact the whole thing sounds like a morbid exploration of some seedy underground art scene, something straight out of Abel Ferrara's Driller Killer. And I mean that in the best possible way.

But not everything is business as usual, in fact this isn't business at all: it's rock and roll, and there is no such thing as usual. This album might be the most tuneful one Jennifer Herrema and Neil Hagerty have put out together, but of course that's a relative term. It's still harsh and abrasive and dissonant in all the right places, however it seems that this time the tension between their avant-garage proclivities and their more classic rock leanings has settled closer to the center. Don't expect Steely Dan obviously, but this ain't Metal Machine Music either. Tracks like White Stuff or Under Ice seem to be heavily influenced by the Rolling Stones (the looser, unfocused Black and Blue era) while Suburban Junky Lady could almost pass for a Wilco tune... if Wilco was a noise-rock band.

Then there's the Suicide meets Hip-Hop vibe of Get Used To This, the almost metal approach of Every Day Swan or Purple Audacity #1, trying to play funk but too strung out to succeed... and Whopper Dave, which is almost sweet. Demented, but almost sweet.

The whole record is full of hazy ambiences, punk aggression, sick guitars, grinding bass, cheap synthesisers and layers upon layers of stacked vocals: hurls, screams, whispers, onomatopoeia and everything in between. It's a brilliant cut-up of everything cool and nasty, amateurish and dangerous, arrogant and sleazy.

Almost twenty years ago Herrema and Hagerty swore that this was it. No more. They were quitting the band cold turkey after some typically insane personal drama. But old habits die hard. And when you think shit's behind you that's when your toxic behavior creeps back up on you. After two long, frustrating decades, the eleven songs in thirty-six minutes of White Stuff are the most satisfying relapse possible, the one that's even better than your first hit.

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