Once upon a time there was a band called Pussy Galore, and they were horrible. They were still very enjoyable, depending on your disposition, but objectively they played truly terrible music marked by sloppy, amateurish musicianship and crude, off-color lyrics. But they reveled in their horribleness, which was part of the appeal. In a strange way, they were paradoxically a good band, epitomizing the spirit of punk in a way few bands could. The height of their career was when they chose to record a cassette-only track for track cover of The Rolling Stones Exile on Main St. which, if you can get your hands on it, is one of the funniest pieces of music you’ll ever hear, with band members, at times, simply explaining what the songs are supposed to sound like, and filling in instrument parts by making vaguely musical sounds with their mouths. There are conflicting legends about how the Exile on Main Street cassette came to be, with some claiming it was a dare from Sonic Youth, while others say that guitarist Neil Hagerty, who we’ll be talking about in more detail in this review, came up with the idea and convinced his bandmates.
When Pussy Galore broke up in 2000, their members embarked on a plethora of new projects, but there were three main bands that were formed in the wake of the Pussy Galore breakup: Boss Hog, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and Royal Trux. Of the three, Royal Trux did the most to carry on the spirit of Pussy Galore, despite the fact that Royal Trux’s co-founder, Neil Hagerty, was only in Pussy Galore for about one full-length and a few EPs. Royal Trux was founded as a collaboration between Hagerty and his then girlfriend Jennifer Herrema. The band started off by carrying on the noisy, chaotic style of Pussy Galore as their first few albums, like their self-titled album and Twin Infinitives, were unlistenable noise. As time went on, Royal Trux learned to actually play their instruments and started to write actual songs, but they never lost the sloppy, grimey style that characterized their early work and, for that matter, the work on Pussy Galore. Royal Trux are kind of like The Velvet Underground meets Motley Crue: all the ostentatiousness of a glam band, but with the most glamorous thing about them being a long documented history of heroin abuse. Royal Trux are now, and always will be, the seedy underbelly that rock ‘n’ roll desperately needs.
White Stuff is Trux’s first album since 2000’s Pound for Pound, the band having broken up in 2001 and reunited in 2015. While the band members have long since learned to play their instruments, they can’t be said to be playing them well, with White Stuff maintaining the band’s sloppy, noisy style. The album being an obvious drug reference, it’s unlikely that Hagerty and Herrema have slowed down their lifestyle any, and it’s extremely unlikely that this album was recorded while sober. The sound of the album is very classic rock, but it’s played by people who don’t really care if their guitars are a little out of tune, or if the vocals aren’t synched up properly. One thing that I don’t think anyone anticipated from Royal Trux back when they were playing straight-up noise rock is that they would someday put out a rap-rock song, but check out track six, “Get Used to This,” which features the Octogynecologist himself, Kool Keith. While there are other rappers whose styles may have fit in better with Royal Trux (the lazy mumble-rap stylings of MF Doom come to mind), Kool Keith meshes surprisingly well with the musical style and makes for a really memorable and catchy track.
While Jon Spencer Blues Explosion called it quits in 2015, Boss Hog reunited in 2016, while Jon Spencer has also turned towards a new solo project, meaning that the spirit of Pussy Galore continues to live on in a few bands, but none that is as brazenly sloppy and chaotic as Royal Trux. If you want an album with a lot of studio polish and where everything is nice and precise, I’m sure the Foo Fighters will put out something new soon enough. But there’s something to be said about the immediacy and the vitality of something as messy and as real as an album like White Stuff. Nothing about what this band is has diminished over time, and White Stuff is a roaring return to right where Royal Trux left off 19 years ago.