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Royal Trux
Cats and Dogs
Drag City

“We’ll get our balance in this new gravity” (from “Turn of the Century”).

The new Royal Trux is excellent, but it takes some getting used to. Cats and Dogs tries to cram in what last year’s sparse and minimal untitled album left out. Sometimes it works for the duo, sometimes it doesn’t.

The former Pussy Galore guitarist Neil Hagerty opts for a more conventional rock sound, using a lot more grainy distortion than the electric or acoustic guitar instrumentation of the band’s previous disc. My dissatisfaction is that it soon wears thin. The loud breaks in the opener “Teeth” mar an otherwise perfect song. “The Spectre” could have done without the annoying bongos. On most other tracks the guest drummer is too upbeat and rocking compared to every other Royal Trux album. “Tight Pants” and “Hot and Cold Skulls” aren’t very memorable, and the song “Let’s Get Lost” is horrible, a complete throwaway.

All this, though, does not ruin the rest of Cats and Dogs. Neil lays down some brilliant bluesy guitar tracks. His style is to layer several guitar sounds which float around and about in each song. It’s different, yet reinforces the entire song structure. He and Jennifer Herrema, his longtime companion and the second half of Royal Trux, both sing and, like the guitars, support and oppose each other. Jennifer’s grunts contrast Neil’s whine and twang, giving an eerie feel to the relatively obscure lyrics. “Turn of the Century” is one of the best songs here and very lonesome sounding: “Don’t mind the rain, we gotta go downtown.” It ends with soft guitar tones similar to Sonic Youth’s “Dirty Boots.” Noise and weirdness grips the last tune, “Driving in That Car,” which reverts back to 1990s dense double album Twin Infinitives.

The thing about Royal Trux is that each of their four releases sounds different from one another, and their live show contrasts the records. Their style is always changing, which always makes them hard to tag. Give any one of their CDs a spin.

Originally published in Ink Nineteen in September 1993.