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Royal Headache - Royal Headache

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Artist: Royal Headache

Album: Royal Headache

Label: R.I.P. Society

Review date: Nov. 28, 2011

I’d like to preface this review by stating that, no, I am not receiving payments or kickbacks of any kind from the Australian government, or any arts/culture bodies therein, nor am I affiliated with any of the bands from the various scenes taking place down there at this time. I will say that the countryfolk there have stepped up their efforts to the point where they can no longer be ignored. If that means that Sydney’s Royal Headache is going to become the next Men at Work, so be it. But they won’t, and justice is going to bring its hammer down and make sure these guys are remembered from the joyful noise they make, not for any affectations they wear.

Yet again we have a band hiding behind assumed or abridged names – Joe on bass, Shortty on drums, Law on guitar, Shogun on vocals – laying down a prized example of an often-tired genre with tremendous, earth-moving results. Why try to hide it? If I were in a band this great, I would be telling everyone with ears about it until they were sick of seeing me around.

Like very few bands before them (Exploding Hearts and The Marked Men come to mind), Royal Headache effortlessly breathes life back into the desiccated husk of pop-punk, the hyper-melodic, energetic strain of expression that, these days at least, seems to have as much to do with how hard you can party as with the music that comes from those efforts. It’s even feasible to put Royal Headache in with soul revivalists, as anyone who checks this out will be hard-pressed to deny Shogun’s efforts in lifting this band beyond a set of great songs and into the memories of the rest of my life. The pipes on this guy are in the echelon of Robert Pollard or a young Eric Burdon, and the durability of the music the band plays (unstoppable hooks a la The Undertones, rooted in early rock ‘n’ roll and Motown R&B) lend themselves to remarkable circumstances: catchy songs you can believe in.

This could have easily gone wrong; they could have found your typical Billie Joe Armstrong archetype to sap, slopped it up and hung on to the wrong vowels, or Shogun could have taken his talents to some nth-gen blue-eyed soul revival squad like the loathsome Fitz & the Tantrums and crooned for a higher guarantee and popularity amongst middle-aged people whose priorities in supporting live music are selfish and redundant. But together they set one another off – the guitars ring out without leaning on the customary effects of the day, the recording is as piss-raw as the situation warrants (turns out quite a bit, and Mikey Young and Owen Penglis are well-suited to the task of capturing Australian bands in the most favorable light), and Shogun really soars off the top of these songs, which are all short, effective blasts of melody and longing that smack you between the eyes, killing the mosquito that was just about to feast there.

In its 26-minute runtime, the Royal Headache LP actually has a chance to breathe, somewhere around tracks 8 through 10. This is to its advantage. A few moments to rest now and again can help a band, and it’s a real showing of their strengths that they can take it down a few notches and not feel required to beat us over the heads with their skills. Some would argue that such a move slows the record down, but since there’s not a lot of other bands working the genre with this level of talent, the argument dissipates. I would sit through a full performance of “4’33” if it meant that another “Honey Joy” or “Never Again” or “Psychotic Episode” were around the bend.

Full hats off to these guys, and to many of the Australian bands of today for making music a fun and worthwhile thing to discover again.

By Doug Mosurock

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