Elevate Difference

Cats & Dogs

I did not see Star Wars until I was nineteen years old. I was even older the first time I saw Steven Spielberg's Poltergeist. In both cases, I hated them. And in both cases, I was told by the films' loyal fans that, when they'd watched these movies at X years old, the scares or the special effects “were really great for their time.” To which I would invariably respond, “I did not experience them at said age in 'their time'; I did so now, as a discerning adult—and I didn't like them. So there.”

Coming of age as a curious young lady during the era of grunge and heroin chic meant that music doubled as both a skeleton key and a gateway drug. With one artist, I could unlock a multitude of doors. Through those doors I found (and get hooked to) progressively grittier, more ferocious music. It's odd, then, that all of those never led me to the sloppy smack-soaked noise rock of Royal Trux. Oh sure, I was aware of them then, but I'm always aware of something; I've got my feelers out in all sorts of directions at all times. But awareness is not the same as appreciation, and it is certainly not the same as fandom.

Had I fully immersed myself in Royal Trux back then, in the same way that I did with other bands of that time, I might get a nice, warm, tingly, nostalgic feeling in my chest when cranking up this year's re-issue of their 1993 album, Cats & Dogs. As it is, though, I just feel kinda bummed.

Please don't misunderstand me. It's not that Royal Trux didn't make worthwhile music; they did. In fact, the eleven tracks that comprise Cats & Dogs embody the many qualities I value in music: swirling screechy guitars, passion that's at once bratty and indolent, and a well-honed messy agility that could easily be confused with slapdash noise.

Royal Trux was formed in Washington, D.C., by Neil Michael Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema, shortly before the demise of their previous group, the Jon Spencer-fronted noise punk band Pussy Galore. In 1989 the duo's first single, “Hero Zero,” was also the first release from notorious Chicago experimental indie label Drag City. In his AllMusic.com biography of Royal Trux, writer John Dougan aptly characterized the duo as a “dissonant junkie nightmare.”

Cats & Dogs was the turning point from extreme to, if not sonorous, at least more tolerable. It's loud and scratchy and, as stated previously, was first released in 1993. But see, there's the rub. Unfortunately for Royal Trux, it sounds like it was released in 1993—at the height of heroin chic. It's kind of a soundtrack to smack. Both Hagerty and Herrema were unabashed junkies. Vocally, they remind me of two very drunk people who have decided to sing a duet together, but the booze is slowing down their response times so that one voice is always lagging behind the other.

Unless your idea of a good time is fully immersing yourself in waves of sound that could only stem from an early '90s heroin high, this is pretty much nostalgia listening only.

Written by: M. Brianna Stallings, October 18th 2010