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. Whereas in the 90s Primal Scream used pastiche and semi-parody to echo Exile on Main Street period Stones, Royal Trux were up to their eyeballs in heroin and homage. And they were undeniably great.

White Stuff is the first new material from the band since 2000’s disappointing Pound for Pound. It thumps and pounds and pulses in all of the usual places that you would expect from a band so indebted to the attitude and swagger of The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Kurt Cobain-endorsed mid-70s Aerosmith. There is a brash energy in the first few tracks which puts paid to any worries that their creative absence may have mellowed the fire in the belly that was the hallmark of their best work. And then you get to the sixth track, their Kool Keith collaboration ‘Get Used to This’, and you feel that nothing will ever feel the same again.

The album opens with the record’s title track, a boogie-woogie stomp about the glories of cocaine. This is the Royal Trux of old – unabashed rock ‘n’ roll guitars, Hagerty and Herrema’s twin vocal assault and lyrical themes of substance use. The track uses a (perhaps pseudo) autobiographical approach in telling the story of Royal Trux, almost as if offering listeners an insight into their narrative as best as they can remember. It is standard fare, offering nothing new to their sound, as if soothing the worries of long-term fans that their near-20-year hiatus would have negatively impacted their focus. In fact, there is little on this album to worry the fanbase, apart from the previously mentioned ‘Get Used to This’. After the title track, the intensity shifts up a gear to ‘Year of the Dog’, which is a cacophonous, strutting mess of visceral energy and joy. This song bundles along at a pace and is over all too quickly, the intensity and zeal carrying it along in a breathless manner. ‘Purple Audacity #2’ follows next, a more contemplative track with a slower, yet still compelling, groove. Royal Trux have always been one of those bands who have spent a career informing the audience of who they were, and the first half of this album continues these thematic concerns that has been a staple of their output to date. These songs are personal, at times confessional, but always sealed with a sense of honesty and openness that is rare these days.

There are a range of musical influences on this album and Royal Trux have never been afraid to mix and match certain elements of their sound as their creativity has seen fit, yet there remain the core fundamentals at play here which are the signature sound of this band. Haggerty’s guitar work – often atonal, discordant but never anything other than affecting – drives the album forward and their dual vocals, more supportive than harmonious, is a welcome return for a band often imitated (The Kills are the most obvious reference point). Stompers such as ‘Whopper Dave’ and ‘Every Day Swan’ are great but add nothing of great significance to the Royal Trux story, instead serving as snippets of the band’s longer history and output for new fans. There are risks on the album, however, most notably on album closer ‘Under Ice’, which opens with a musical vignette which is as lo-fi as this album gets and is a welcome reference to earlier work such as their Untitled album from 1992.

Risks have always been a part of the lore of Royal Trux, a couple who have lived on the edge of conventionality for the duration of their career. From teen stoners, to major label artist junkies, there has always been a singular drive from Royal Trux to play by their own rules and screw everyone else who disagrees. There is much to be commended in living life in such a manner but there is no excuse for the collaboration with Kool Keith on this album which stops the listener’s enjoyment dead in its tracks. Time to deal with ‘Get Used to This’…

Surely everyone knows the all-too-concise review of the Shark Sandwich album review in Spinal Tap? Well, ‘Get Used to Shit’ works well here, too. I like Royal Trux. I like Kool Keith. I also like mustard and jelly, but I know that the two combined would be terrible together. The idea of Kool Keith working with Royal Trux is actually quite a good one – two longstanding mavericks in their own fields coming together to rattle a few cages is how this meeting of minds should have ended up. Instead, the result is a half-arsed effort and the worst kind of artistic laziness this side of a bunch of creatives thinking that Kendall Jenner handing out cans of sugary liquid shite during a riot had sure fire and unproblematic marketing appeal. The album is tainted beyond belief by this track despite there being some really worthwhile work in the five songs that follow.

If, after an absence of 19 years, you are happy to engage with a band who are reprising much of their musical and lyrical themes whilst also dipping their toes into unexplored (and poorly realised) terrain, then no doubt there is much within White Stuff which will tick all of the appropriate boxes. But, oh man, that Kool Keith track…