Royal Headache – Royal Headache

Release date – 08/05/2012 (What’s Your Rupture)

Royal HeadacheAussie four piece Royal Headache actually released this, their debut album, in September of last year on R.I.P records.  After huge praise in Australia the album was then picked up by ‘What’s Your Rupture’ Records for worldwide release.

The band all go by nicknames: Shorty (drums); Law (guitar); Joe (bass); and Shogun (vocals). As the story goes, the bassist’s roommate owns R.I.P Records, and also runs a recording studio in Melbourne. The band made the 12 hour road trip from Sydney to Melbourne to record these twelve tracks. They then spent a couple of months perfecting the vocals and production. Since its release on both sides of the world, it’s become almost a viral success.

From the start, this is fast and furious punk rock in the classic sense of the word. Fuzz box guitars and snarling vocals are all present and correct. Throughout the whole album nearly all of the tracks weigh-in much less than three minutes; some of them barely even breaking two. For each of the songs, the purpose is to get in, do what needs doing and get out. There is no messing around, no niceties, no instrumental breaks, no showboating or filler of any kind. It’s raw, and it means business.

On opening track ‘Never Again’ you can hear instantly that Shogun has a vocal talent not usually found in punk rock circles. He sings with so much soul that some of the tracks almost cease to be the typical shouty punk rock we’ve come to know and love – however rest assured there is still much shouting and attitude on offer here. Even on repeated listening it’s difficult to describe how he manages to play with the pace and rhythm of each of the tracks, and still convey a meaning and a passion with every word he sings. Shogun is incredibly inventive with his vocal style, which for me is a large part of this record. It’s disarming to hear a voice with such skill in a genre so typically throwaway.

Second track, ‘Really In Love’ without even a second listen feels like a modern classic. This might sound like a huge statement, but it reminded me of the first time I heard The White Stripes play ‘Fell in Love with a Girl’ or The Undertones ‘Teenage Kicks’. It really is that good. The track has that raw stripped down simplicity and soul to it that makes you think you’ve heard it before. It’s a feeling that doesn’t happen very often. You could remove the booming drums and frantic guitars to reveal a delicate acoustic track, which would still stand up on its own. It’s this kind of simple songwriting that gives Royal Headache the edge. It feels like they don’t need to try. This is the standout track of the album, but there are still plenty of gems to be heard.

‘Surprise’ follows on and sounds as bare and as stripped down as early Strokes. Again the chords are simple, as are the lyrics, and Shoguns voice drives through the guitar noise almost like it’s a motown record. This is some of the most soulful punk I have ever heard. ‘Psychotic Episode’, as its title suggests harks back to the more classic days of late seventies punk, and they really snarl out. It works beautifully, and stands a great tribute to British bands like the Sex Pistols and UK Subs, which have clearly influenced them. Punk stalwarts will be pleased to hear some shouting, finally.

The momentum is kept up for ‘Girls’, which is the single release from the album. It’s probably the most fast and furious track on offer here. It rolls in at what feels like 100mph and breezes out without a second thought for the listener. It’s tough, no–
nonsense stuff and all the more refreshing for it.

There are a couple of instrumentals on the record which showcase the band’s song composition, probably more than their ability to play. Not meaning this as a criticism, but for Royal Headache everything is done in the true punk sense of the word, and is banged out with more attitude than ability – exactly as it should be. ‘Two Kinds of Love’ is a mid-tempo ballad-esque piece, building melody on a few simple chord changes, and towards the end of the record ‘Wilson Street’ takes a similar tempo and builds the track around a central riff. It’s good to hear Royal Headache just playing as a band, and you can tell there is a stack of ideas being developed.

‘Down The Lane’ is another highlight on the album. Here the vocals take on more of a swagger and a tale of boy-meets-girl plays out in first person. It’s amazingly tuneful, with hugely infectious chorus, and some of the funniest lyrics I’ve heard in a long time. The detail in their lyrics is very astute, almost akin to Arctic Monkeys in terms of their dry humour. The fuzzy production on this track steeps it in authenticity, and it’s difficult to believe this is actually a modern record. Similarly ‘Distant and Vague’ sounds like The Beatles circa ‘Please Please Me’. If it wasn’t for the tracks preceding you would believe this was recorded in the sixties or seventies. The whole album has a classic feel to it.

‘Pity’ closes the record with a three chord workout, and almost directly thanks us for listening; ‘It has been our pleasure, You are all we treasure, You are all we love’. It feels like the closing credits of a great film we’ve just watched. Again, simple and brilliant.

Weighing in at 27 minutes it’s an album that is very short lived but packed with great songs, inventive lyrics, amazing composition and one of the best vocals I’ve heard so far this year. I really can’t recommend this record enough.

Mike Conyard