This month’s guest post from music fan, pop culture critic, and author Geoff Moore places him in the role of musical scientist, with labcoat and clip board, possibly safety goggles. Geoff answers the question of what happens when the common house cat is exposed to music of varying genres and degrees of quality. Put down the catnip, pop a beer, and read on!
There’s a throw on the couch in the living room (which may be a great room in current real estate jargon) because Angus the tabby likes the couch a lot. The little bastard is the only one who uses the couch and he sheds grey, white and caramel fur as he kneads the cushions before he settles.
And once the yogi-yoga position gut grooming is completed, all limbs are tucked away out of sight as he assumes the regal pose of a decoy duck, or maybe the Sphinx, but on a substantially smaller scale and with a genuine cat head. Television entertains him, but only football and hockey and he’s savvy enough to know that the figures on the screen cannot be attacked. Everything else in the cable universe induces sleep; he’s like a lot of people that way.
Twenty-five year-old Mission stereo speakers are on the TV bench, on either side of the screen. There are some claw marks in the fabric grilles, down near the logo plates, but they’re relatively ancient as Angus has come to understand a bit about what may and may not be used as a scratching post. When music is playing he stares at the black rectangles. Excessive volume seems to have the same effect on his ears as a strong wind, they drop like bent fighters.
The only living thing that looks more pissed off than a cat with its ears flattened is Lou Reed.
Certain instruments and pitches induce Angus ear reactions. A couple of the pet’s sound peeves include the guitar solo near the fade of ‘Stray Cat Blues’ and Roger’s scream in ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ (although this may just be the element of surprise despite repeated listenings). The Replacements are cool with the cat. As is Squeeze. And, if cradled comfortably, Angus will slow dance to ‘Incident on 57th Street,’ at least until Spanish Johnny decides to go and sit out on the fire escape.
Now, as the Boss sang in 1978, everybody’s got their secrets. Walk-in closets or IKEA wardrobes rife with skeletons; virtual vertical mass graves of gone but not forgotten trespasses, embarrassments and venial sins, some so fresh they’re still smarting. And down in the corner under the ashes of your first cigarette is that compilation of songs, those guilty pleasures that are best listened to without snickering friends or appalled family members present. But if you really like a song, there must be some merit to it, how bad can it be? But who’s to judge with steely-eyed impartiality?
When your wife travels frequently you must be mindful of what you get up to when you’re at loose ends. RDS, Quebec’s French-language TSN, is a welcome distraction and a thrifty buy to boot: all 82 Montreal regular season hockey games for less than five bucks a month. Twelve-packs of amber ale and shots of Bushmills come in handy while watching the Canadiens nurse, then blow, one-goal leads.
Siren goes, game’s over and the screen’s blank; you’re standing there looking down at the tabby cat. The cat looks back, bored, yawning, mildly curious about the next activity… A half-baked idea begins to germinate, gestate, gesticulate and then gyrate – or maybe the great room is just spinning like a CD. So…
Eleven (because Rob seems fixated on the number 10 – which is brought to you by the letter T) guilty pleasures critiqued by a cat:
Angus listens to big, dumb rawk!
Def Leppard: “Animal”. The 1910 Fruitgum Company meets Free? Same girl-as-prey lyrical turf as Free’s ‘The Hunter’ but somewhat less meat-headed and with more hooks than an abattoir.
Angus ear reaction: <> Both flattened, too much multi-tracked noise to process.
Billy Squier: “My Kinda Lover”. At its basest, rock ‘n’ roll’s about doing it without actually coming right out and saying it. Kinda graphic, but not crude and you can, er, dance to it.
Angus ear reaction: ^^ All up, nothing offensive here.
Cinderella: “Shelter Me”. Bad 80s hair and a worse name, but Stonesy. Of its time, but it’s refreshing to be reminded that hypocrites like Jimmy Swaggart eventually get what’s coming to them and the inconvenient truth is that PMRC co-founder Tipper Gore is an uptight fascist in a Democrat’s dress.
Angus ear reaction: ^> Mixed, Tom Kiefer’s voice takes some getting used to.
Journey: “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin'” Imagining your significant other with another can lead to madness and tragedy, but when it’s all wrapped up in a slick stadium sheen, well, who’s crying now?
Angus ear reaction: <> Oh no! The experiment’s controls go awry as Angus leaps from the couch and settles in the penthouse of his nearby six-storey cat condo.
Motley Crue: “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)”. Thanks for the memories, now get lost. If the Stones had been ambitious enough to make a triple album sometime between 1973 and 1977 this song or something like it (and Cinderella’s Shelter Me or something like it) might have been buried on side six.
Angus ear reaction: ^^ But the cat frantically bathes himself and understandably so – just look at them.
Bryan Adams: “Diana”. The only song he’s ever sung in which he sounds like he means it. The flip side of the 12″ single was called “Camilla”. Honest.
Angus ear reaction: <> Chunky guitars and too much thumping for the tabby’s tastes.
Angus listens to sensitive, emotional stuff.
Carly Simon: “You’re So Vain”. Big LP covers were so enjoyable to look at. Chuck Berry wishes he’d rhymed ‘Nova Scotia’ with ‘Saratoga’ and ‘gavotte’ with apricot.’
Angus ear reaction: ^> Once you isolate Mick Jagger’s backing vocals, that’s all you hear, donchu?
George Michael: “Waiting for that Day”. The ultimate rueful, post-relationship, wrist-slitter is the Band’s It Makes No Difference, it’s untouchable, but George takes his best shot at a forlorn Jim Cuddy/Blue Rodeo ballad. The segue into “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” slays.
Angus ear reaction: ^^ He still misses Emily the calico who had to be put down a couple months back.
Madonna: “Crazy for You”. A fine ballad from a forgettable movie which is maybe why it works so well. It neither sounds nor feels like a typical Madonna album track or single (whatever her current incarnation) per se; here’s hoping Alison Moyet takes a run at it some day.
Angus ear reaction: <> Flattened due to some romantic man-on-cat, forehead-to-forehead nuzzling and baby talked endearments.
Jann Arden: “Insensitive”. Field notes from the broken hearted. Beautifully sung by a discarded angel.
Angus ear reaction: ^^
A lullaby, but only because any language beyond “Angus!” and “No! No!” is simply a series of sounds to be ignored.
Genesis: “Throwing It All Away”. Yes, an 80s Phil Collins ballad as Genesis goes pop! Motown-inspired backing vocals behind a lead which manages to convey the anguish and resignation that accompanies a cratering couple’s morning after discussion; the fighting’s over.
Angus ear reaction: ^> The breathy sighs may be a little too reminiscent of the wind on a chilly fall day.
Hair metal, AOR, singer-songwriters, adult contemporary, diluted prog… Well, that was cathartic. The shame and self-loathing in the room are as palpable as the disturbed furballs that hover just over the hardwood when you walk into the kitchen to get another beer. Angus’s stomach is big enough to hold an ashtray but smoking in the house is verboten. You light up on the deck outside, exhale at the moon and then notice that the window was wide open the whole time. And while the cat won’t ever confess, you wonder what will the neighbours think.
Geoff Moore scribbles his thoughts in Calgary, while Angus looks on, unimpressed. So far, the SPCA has not yet been alerted to the fact of his prolonged exposure to 80s hair metal.