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." However, as close as White Stuff gets to the classic Royal Trux sound, it feels like some of the spirit behind that sound is missing.
Back in the day, Herrema and Hagerty's frayed, acid-washed combination of metal, pop, funk, classic rock, and whatever else they wanted generated sparks as it threatened to fall apart; this time, it seems surprisingly careful.
White Stuff's hi-def digital production is even cleaner than the band's output for Virgin Records, and its songs include every vintage Trux quirk, like bongos and electric piano, with almost algorithmic attention to detail.
Just when things start feeling too predictable, White Stuff's second half brings back some of the looseness, weirdness, and humor that earned Royal Trux their cult following.
Kool Keith adds some welcome energy to "Get Used to This," creating a more spontaneous mood that "Whopper Dave" continues.
"Every Day Swan" could pass for a track that fell off of Veterans of Disorder, thanks to its cowbell-heavy, seemingly effortless appeal -- and serves as a reminder that this kind of offhanded charm doesn't always come easily, even to this band.