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Listed: Royal Headache + Grass Widow

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Dusted Features

Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists determined by our favorite artists. This week: Australian romantics Royal Headache and San Franciscoís best band, Grass Widow.



Listed: Royal Headache + Grass Widow


Royal Headache

Someday a biologist will research what vitamins or magical bacteria Australians and New Zealanders consume that lead their nations to dominate the worldís catchy-punk landscape. Until the secret comes out, heads will nod and feet will tap to the latest Sydney-based phenom, Royal Headache. Recorded by Mikey Young of Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Royal Headacheís self-titled debut has the clear, backwards-harking analog sound familiar to ECSR fans, but donít expect any extended Stooges-style jam-outs here. Lead singer Shogun has a classically heartstrings-tugging power-pop voice with a quaver that recalls the Undertonesí Feargal Sharkey; the band bangs out two-minute gems that might evoke Powerpearls hits, the Jam, or... fuck it, letís dance. RH selected some compatriots (among others) for their Listed. Theyíll be touring the U.S. throughout the next month.

1. Big Star Ė Radio City
No one has ever been this badass at guitar. Alex Chilton is probably my favorite guitarist of all time, these are his guitar songs (thatís a bit dumb but it makes sense if you know the first two Big Star records). The first record is probably everyoneís favorite because it sounds pretty, but this is better. It is tougher, not that itís tough like a biker bar brawl, but you know, tough like the Rolling Stones when they stopped with haircuts. But the main thing is these songs have more heart than anything youíll ever hear — this motherfucker, itís like Dan from Roseanne sitting in a bar drinking because he lost his job and heís got a retarded Midwest misfit family to raise. Real human shit. (Joe)

2. X Ė X-Aspirations
This is probably the greatest record to ever come out of Australia. Itís like hardcore for Rose Tattoo fans. Tough and wild, almost no chops but so much power. It is embraced as a seminal punk record but these guys never saw themselves as a punk band. Therefore itís even better because it seems completely unaware of itself. It canít exist any other way, thereís no pose itís just rough outlaw rock and roll. (Joe)

3. Ed Kuepper - Electrical Storm
Edís debut solo full length after The Saints, The Aints and The Laughing Clowns. I love the amazing languid delivery of this record. It just sways along in its own drunkenly earnest way. Electrical Storm contains a number of moody down-tempo ballads, dispersed between the more upbeat rockers. The shadow of Mr. Kuepper still looms as one of the greatest and most distinctive guitarists to emerge from our shores. The tones and execution of this record has definitely influenced my other band Camperdown & Out. (Shorty)

4. Television Personalities - ÖAnd Donít The Kids Just Love It
The first Television Personalities LP released in 1981. This album is pretty much perfect in my books. There is a brilliant simplicity in both the melody and instrumentation, but a great urgency in the delivery. Dan Treacyís musical lens was skewed through a youth of living in housing commission buildings, and a penchant for Ď60s mod and psychedelia. His lyrics were not full of forced political sloganeering, or abstract art school smarter-than-you waffle. Each song provided a soundtrack for small observations about existing. Songs that often fantasized about hopes and dreams of a better life. Sometimes sad, sometimes funny, but always endearing. The best pop songs only come straight from the heart. (Shorty)

5. Rikk Agnew - All by Myself
Anyone with half a clue knows that Rikk Agnew wrote ALL of the Adolescentsí best songs. They clearly became a far less exciting prospect after he left. Myself is an extension of his Adolescents era output but with freedom and total control to really fly. "Falling Out," "Surfside" and "Yur 2 Late" are, in my opinion, some of the best punk songs written in America in the early 1980s. This album contains two of the elements which are a constant in most Royal Headache songs- melody and urgency. (Shorty)

6. The Go-Betweens - Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express
Although I am a fan of most of the Go-Betweens back catalogue, I feel that this fourth LP is their most consistent and cohesive album. I revisit Liberty Bell more regularly than I do the others. Everyone in Australia knows this band. They craft distinctly poetic Australian pop songs which could provide the soundtrack to every good Peter Carey or Robert Drewe novel. I decided few years ago now that I want "Apology Accepted" to be played at my funeral. (Shorty)

7. The Flys - Love and a Molotov Cocktail
The Flys were a great short-lived punk/mod/pop outfit out of Coventry, England. The "Love and a Molotov Cocktail" single was released 1977 or Ď78, I think. All three songs "Civilization," "Can I Crash Here?" and the title track are bonafide smash hits. Their following debut LP was good, but never quite reached the heights of this 7-inch. (Shorty)

8. Eddy Current Suppression Ring - Eddy Current Suppression Ring
This record came out at an important time for me. Iíll admit I was a little burnt out on most local music. Not that it was necessarily bad, but I can perhaps attribute those sentiments to my headspace at the time. Previously, I had heard the ECSR singles which had me excited, but I wasnít prepared for the impact of this record. This album hit me hard! It literally did not leave my record player for almost a year. It was easily the most exciting thing happening in the country. I donít think Iíd be going overboard as stating that this album is comparable in cultural importance in modern times as Stranded was in 1977. (Shorty)

9. Kitchens Floor - Loneliness is a Dirty Mattress
When I think of contemporary independent music from Brisbane, this LP is the first thing that springs to mind. I believe that it captures and exemplifies all that is musically important from that city. Loneliness contains 11 completely muted and fragmented pop songs. The whole record is delivered with this savage fragility which is so gut-wrenchingly honest. You just canít ignore it. I love Kitchens Floor. (Shorty)

10. The Replacements - Let It Be
This record is like The Sandlot kids. Theyíre not the best baseball players in the world, they donít have uniforms, theyíre not pretty but they made your favorite movie of all time. Every time you watch it youíre gonna feel nostalgic for somewhere you didnít even exist. I canít explain it, but this is the one of the greatest records of all time. That doesnít mean theyíre the best songs youíll ever hear (they probably will be). I know this record is a mess but you canít help but love it. Something happens and all logic leaves. This is one of the greatest bands of all time, even though you know itís not true. When you wish classic rock FM sounded more punk, youíve been searching for this. (Shorty)


Grass Widow

The Bay Area-based trio Grass Widow heralded the release of their third LP, Internal Logic, on with a trailer that spoofs Ď60s industrial shorts. Hannah Lew, Raven Mahon and Lillian Maring monitor the production of their record at a pressing plant, only to despair and vanish into the ocean. Without stretching anything too far, the video brings to mind two of Grass Widowís great strengths: the precision and careful construction evident in their songwriting, combined with a light touch and a subtle sense of humor. Internal Logic sees them once again mining Ď60s pop and psychedelia via nimble post-punk guitars. They selected a set of classic rock faves for Listed.

Grass Widow
Hannah Lew (bass, vocals) answers numbers one through four, Raven Mahon (guitar, vocals) takes on five through seven and Lillian Maring (drums, vocals) wraps the affair, covering eight through 10.

1. David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
There was a period in my life when I exclusively listened to David Bowie. When I was 20ish, I was having a rough patch and dealing with depression and I would listen to David Bowie and his voice seemed like the only thing that made me feel better. I love the Bowie universe and all the unique glam fantasy landscapes he has created. All of his music is really special to me and has always been a source of inspiration when I think about some structure, approach to subject matter etc. He has always been an artist who has taken song structure risks while maintaining accessibility. He gets away with things, like, two bars of unaccompanied acoustic guitar right in the middle of a song. I love you, David Bowie! (Hannah)

2. The Beatles - The White Album
I grew up listening to the Beatles. I would abuse my parentsí copies of Abbey Road, Let It Be, Revolver. (Why did they let me use the stereo all by myself?) I have always — from a young age-regarded The White Album as a very important record. The order of the songs and the way the whole thing is assembled is so epic. There are so many good songs and there is a certain method to the relationship each song has to each other due to their divine placement on the record. The two LPs seem like two sides to something bigger than all of us. I would listen to this album a lot as a kid and try to understand the discreet aspects of Beatles magic hidden amidst the lyrics and embedded in the recordings. (Hannah)

3. Velvet Underground - Velvet Underground
This is another record my parents had that I would listen to as a young person and really want to understand. There are the hits and then thereís "The Murder Mystery." Much like "Revolution 9," I would listen to this as a little girl and get this feeling like there was something I was supposed to understand and that if I listened deeply, I might figure it out. Thereís so many great songs on this record! I would listen to "After Hours" on repeat. I always loved how simple and beautiful this song was. I love how Moís voice is so genuine and untrained. You really get the feeling of a moment captured on this record. The recording seems like a true documentation of a time . (Hannah)

4. Wire - Pink Flag
This album is so perfect from beginning to end. It blows my mind that a band can be this good. All the songs are really short and placed perfectly next to each other. I think this is one of the few records that is really perfect from beginning to end. It has a feeling of ease, as if it just slipped out of the band. I love this because Wire is such a heavy bandÖ you can tell they dealt with dark shit, but they also were able to make music that took those feelings and transcended them. This album seems to be a successful expression of that. It seems so effortless. "Mannequin" is one of my all-time favorite songs — from the first time I heard it — I imagined covering it. It was really fun to get to cover it as Grass Widow because the harmonies and overlapping vocals in that song are so amazing. Something I really love about this song is that, in the same way as "After Hours," there is this intricate vocal thing going on but with genuine, untrained voices. Thereís something very true about it. (Hannah)

5. Leonard Cohen - Songs of Leonard Cohen
I did some really heavy listening to Leonard Cohen when I was 16. His songs affected me; they were solemn lullabies that resonated really seamlessly with the shitty isolation and hormonal mess of being a teenager.—Albuquerque had a hardcore scene and a punk scene in the late Ď90s, which I was a part of peripherally, but outside of that I was listening other music like Leonard Cohen and Mazzy Star and Bob Dylan, a bit of Talking Heads (who I didnít really get into until later)Ö and relating to the words and the mood, starting to think conceptually about music. Sometimes I would smoke weed and drive around in my momís Saab and think about, in the case of Leonard Cohen, how he had so artfully constructed these meaningful narratives with simple and familiar images. Maybe it was his voice. I always felt really comforted. And I was probably stoned. Songs like "Suzanne" and "So Long, Marianne" and "Famous Blue Raincoat" really got me (although that last one is from another album). I had learned a little bit of classical guitar at this point in high school and was really drawn to how easy it seemed for him to synthesize those kinds of melodies with subject matter that was so beautiful and sophisticated that it sounded as though it were being read from a scroll. (Raven)

6. Jimi Hendrix - Are You Experienced?
I started listening to Jimi Hendrix when I was about 12 or 13. Are You Experienced? was one of my favorite albums, next to a collection of Hungarian folk songs my grandma gave me and Alice In Chains, which I donít care if I ever hear again. I would travel around New Mexico with my mom and listen to this album on my Discman in the backseat. I think it was right around this time that I began recognizing music as a way to manifest some kind of experiential counterpart to an emotion. I was listening to music that I was having a unique and personal experience with and I remember — although Jimi Hendrix was a cultural icon embedded with all of this wild emotion inherently — actually feeling something specific when I heard it. I didnít play guitar at the time, but when I started taking classical lessons a few years later, I learned the solo in "The Wind Cries Mary." Although at the time I approached the song from a technical standpoint (because I was learning classical and had never played with a pick, for example), the way I hear Jimi Hendrix has evolved as my relationship with guitar and my musicianship has evolved. (Raven)

7. Nirvana - Nevermind
I was 13 when Kurt Cobain died.—It was extremely devastating. I probably had a similar experience listening to Nirvana that most kids my age did. It was completely accessible and kind of raw and felt like something really personal, but that you were simultaneously sharing with a lot of people around you. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was on MTV and all of the skaters and weirdos that I hung out with looked like Dave Grohl or Kurt Cobain in some way or another. Itís difficult to think outside of that experience — just like Iím sure a 12-year-old now canít conceptualize a world without cell phones or YouTube — but the fact that we could watch music videos and witness the artists performing and see they way they dressed and the aesthetic choices they made probably had a profound effect on how my generation related to bands like Nirvana. Especially Nirvana. Although I wasnít a part of it at the time (still in my classical guitar nerd closet), my friends, pretty exclusively the boys, were forming bands and playing together in their garages after school. It was a long time after that before I started playing music with other people and figured out how to channel the guitar experience I had had into something that I could do in collaboration with others, but this had to be part of the genesis. (Raven)

8. T. Rex - The Slider
I could never pick a favorite T. Rex song, but I know which ones Iíll sing to my kids some day. I love The Slider, in the intro when the drums roll into that meaty guitar, you can really sink your teeth into it. The vocals sit way on top, you can hear Marc breathing in dramatically before the next verse. He has a way of bringing you into his realm, so that singing along to "Bolan likes to rock now" doesnít feel contrived, itís just the truth. I appreciate his storytelling and the confidence he seems to have in sharing his desires. I wouldnít sing about a loving a car, but I love it when he does. It makes me want to share myself in a way that might feel like over exposure, but itís just the truth, with the possibility that someone can relate to it. (Lillian)

9. Brian Eno - Here Come the Warm Jets
Brian Enoís songs are relatable in this way that feels subconscious for me, like he has an instinct that naturally resonates. Some friends and I had a Brian Eno tribute band for Halloween last year. Dissecting his songs was so much fun, really spending time with the lyrics and nuances of production. In learning his songs I realized how much I had loved his music without having truly studied it. And the more I studied it the more I appreciated it. I listened to The BBC sessions a lot to get a sense of how he executed his songs live. The BBC version of "Babyís On Fire" is so good, something simple like striking a chord in the opposite direction adds character to what would normally be a regular rock n roll riff. His vocals are often doubled and clash slightly. He definitely has a knack for throwing something barely off-kilter, just enough that it catches your attention but not so far as to derail the melody. The obviously wrong thing to do might be the right thing for the moment, you never know, and thatís why you have to give it a chance. (Lillian)

10. David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
I know Hannah already did this one, but Iíd be lying if I said any other album was more influential for me than this one. When I was a teenager this was the first tape I had on repeat in the car when I learned how to drive. I had a similar period as Hannah in my early 20s where I spent a lot of time alone with Davidís music. It was a formative time and he seemed to have a lot of answers. I would lie in bed for hours watching his videos. My favorite is his live set of "Five Years" on The Old Grey Whistle Test, wherein he looks straight at the camera with his different sized pupils and sneers and sticks his nose in the air, so dramatic. I was Ziggy for Halloween that year. I used to cover ďFive Years" by myself, before Grass Widow started. "Moonage Daydream" is my favorite karaoke song, if only the karaoke spot I frequent would finally add it to their list! Some tastes come and go but this album is a lifelong partner for me. (Lillian)

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