Royal Headache: Royal Headache Review
After seeing Royal Headache live and spinning their debut LP non-stop, one would think as a “music blogger” I would have written a review of an album that landed in the #4 slot of my favorite records of 2011. I even mentioned my regrets in my year end “things we missed” series, saying “It really is a travesty that this record made my top five records of the year (#4 to be exact) and didn’t get a legit review.” Well, my long bout of suffering can now come to an end. The duel happenings of the group swinging through town for an encore show Saturday night at the Triple Rock and the record being re-released (and actually being released for the first time in the US outside of where the band had previously dropped it off), I figured now would be my chance to shine a light on this amazing release.
Royal Headache is twelve songs of swashbuckling, emotionally jarring, and just plain fucking awesome garage/punk/rock and roll. Seeing the band live before dropping the needle on their debut record was a helpful initiation to the their sound. With a stripped down setup consisting of drums, bass and a (aweoms Rickenbacker) guitar, the bands sound trims any unnecessary fat from their musical output. While producing richly melodic songs (including great instrumentals like the jangly “Two Kinds of Love” and the lush, somber “Wilson Street”), the group find a way to make this record lean and forceful. Melodies, wrapped in fuzz and mixed with everything high, are omnipresent over the course of the album and show the band are more than simply three chord disciples. The bands brevity leaves room for the raucous, drunk Rod Stewart vocals of dynamic lead singer Shogun, who more than fills in the space that his band mates leave with their smart, nondescript performances. His vocals sound like FM gold sung by an angry teenager after having too many beers and a couple packs of cigarettes. His broken heart laments on songs like “Never Again” and “Really in Love” and “Pity” expose him as a deft songwriter, which are simply a bonus when combined with his astonishing vocal abilities. The band create the kind of stirring, fist pumping jams that seem destined for larger audiences on frantic tracks like “Surprise,” “Girls,” “Back and Forth” and the buzzing “Psychotic Episode,” which is a song I have yet to get sick of one year into playing it multiple times a week.
The whole record simply blows me away each time I listen to it. It has the attitude of garage rock, the “fuck off” minimalism of punk and it still manages to be abundantly melodic and feature one of the most vibrant lead singers I have heard in years. Usually if I like a record enough for it to crack my top ten, I go out of my way to make sure I write about it for the site…it just seems like the music nerd thing to do. Yet for some reason I didn’t get around to writing about Royal Headache last year when it had a pretty constant spot on my record player. Looking back, I think it partially was that, in addition to thinking it was a great musical concoction, my reason for liking the album was highly visceral. Each time the I pulled the record off the shelf or it came up on my computer or MP3 player, it just hit that same spot, over and over again. While I am sure my meager writing skills still are not capturing how much I love this record, at least I can sleep at night knowing that my “music blogger” credentials will be extended for at least a little bit longer as I have finally spilled my two cents about this stunning debut LP from a still wildly underappreciated Australian band.
See the band Saturday night with a slew of local bands at the Triple Rock Social Club. However much they are charging, it is worth it. You will not be disappointed.