Published Feb 28, 2019The reunion circuit suits Royal Trux. In the '80s and '90s, Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema gleefully tore apart the fundamentals of garage rock and pasted them together in messy, disorienting collages. So what better way to return from a nearly two-decade absence than with one of rock's more dubious tropes, the comeback album?
Indeed, if White Stuff has a consistent throughline, it's a love for the music itself. Imitating Bowie's "Speed of Life" by way of Dinosaur Jr., the album's title track packs a twisted touring odyssey into three-and-a-half minutes. "Year of the Dog" continues in that vein, pausing only for a baying solo off the top. By the time Hagerty drawls about a woman who dies alongside rock'n'roll on "Sic Em Slow," there's little doubt about the duo's dedication to their genre of choice.
Worshipping at the altar of rock naturally carries some hokeyness, but Hagerty and Herrema deftly toe the line between camp and sentimentality. "Suburban Junky Lady" laughs with its unfortunate title character rather than taking cheap pot shots, and "Shoes and Tags" trails off with a refrain about sneaker brands. Even as the Kool Keith bars on "Get Used to This" underwhelm, it's at least a sign that no one's taking themselves too seriously.
Few would mistake White Stuff for golden age Royal Trux — the vocals are more subdued, the songwriting is more straightforward, and anyone looking for something as confrontational as "The Banana Question" won't find it here. But hearing Hagerty and Herrema stay true to their ethos after 30-plus years offers its own satisfactions. Consider the comeback complete. (Fat Possum)