[9 May 2012]
Royal Headache’s debut LP has been making its way around certain circles for a few months now, and it’s made a big impression for good reason. Thankfully, that impression and circulation is going to be greatly extended thanks to What’s Your Rupture?, a label that’s put out records by bands like Fucked Up and Cold Cave. Royal Headache’s self-titled LP is a very worthy addition to the label and a sensible one as, perhaps more than any other artists on WYR?, plays into the classic 80’s post-punk to great effect.
The Sydney-based four-piece really knows how to expand that aesthetic but modernize it in subtle and appropriate ways. That factor of their music is almost instantly recognizable on Royal Headache. Opening tracks “Never Again” and “Really in Love” start things off with a very healthy dose of head-rush adrenaline and the spiky energy never loosens its grip from that point onwards. If the rapid-fire rhythm section and treble-y guitars don’t pull you in, then the vocals almost certainly will. Everything comes together and feels like a perfect lo-fi throwback to a different era. “Really in Love” could be a lost Buzzcocks song and that’s a great thing. Not a lot of bands dabbling in this genre can pull off something that authentic.
As Royal Headache continues its charms get even more infectious and the individual strengths become more noticeable. While there’s two instrumentals that work well within the context of the album, the vocals are sorely missed and Royal Headache loses some momentum and verve in those moments. While the songs themselves wouldn’t necessarily be lacking on a separate release, a song like “Two Kinds of Love” just can’t hold things together after a double-dose of brilliance provided by “Psychotic Episode” and “Girls”, both of which stand out as two of Royal Headache‘s frenzied best.
Fortunately, the band knows a thing or two about momentum resurrection and gets things back on track after both instances. That function of Royal Headache might be why it works so well as a whole, never once coming off as a collection of singles. It’s nice to hear a band fuse the past and present and still feel genuinely original. Over the course of many of the songs on Royal Headache, there’s moments to reminisce about the best punk bands to crop up in any local circle. They all seem to effectively make that fusion as well and incorporate a healthy dose of understanding into the equation, providing the appropriate dressings. In Royal Headache’s case, this means making ‘80s post-punk that’s informed by the punk-pop of that era and beyond, which is something that’s especially noticeable on a track like the wonderful toe-tapper, “Down the Lane”.
There’s also a curious psych-pop influence running through these songs which is fairly easy to spot on a song like “Distant and Vague”. Fortunately, the band does well with this influence. Importantly, the quality of the songwriting also matches up with some of their biggest influences, which is rather impressive itself. Another hint of originality is the ambient wash that can be heard running over the intro to “Honey Joy” before the songs pace picks up and Royal Headache kicks out yet another jam.
Royal Headache comes to a satisfyingly great ending with “Pity”, one of the albums several highlights. “Pity” is perhaps Royal Headache‘s most definitive track and it feels like a fitting end-cap to a great trip. This is a sugar-spiked head-rush of a record that will undoubtedly rank as one of the best punk releases of 2012 and have people buzzing about this band for quite a while. Royal Headache is an absolute joy to listen to all the way through and hopefully signals the start of great things for the young band. There’s certainly promise to be found in Royal Headache, the fact that they’ve already capitalized in much of it is a big step in the right direction.