This one’s a Glasgow baby through and through. Birthed amid the ramshackle cacophonia of dorm-room jam sessions, and then rushed through to an especially pimply adolescence, this jagged little fragment of hyperactive twee pop somehow managed to grow into a gangly, undersized amalgam of the Raincoats, Vaselines and Belle & Sebastian. Led by lost angel Jihae Simmons, whose voice is, in fact, more Eugene Kelly than Frances McKee, the Royal We rocks just the way any other wobbly gig loaded with artsy part-time barista types ought to. Except that these guys also possess the rare ability to write stupid-good songs.
For starters, the ukulele on “Back and Forth All Day” is just about as dry as good British humor gets, stomping all over the prissy little tea parties of lesser devils like The Boy Least Likely To. Furthermore, Simmons tends to write the sort of lyrics you can basically memorize after three listens while thankfully sidestepping the more than occasional four-tracked Alanis-isms of soul sister Kimya Dawson. Instead, lyrics that run, “Call this home ‘cause you’re my sweet / And home sweet home is where we meet / So please be patient at the station / Nothing will bring our defeat,” register as razor ammunition for the album’s greater rejection of lame “hit it and quit it” jive posturing. Other tunes to tackle the subject include the stupendously repetitive “All the Rage,” as well as the referential/reverential “I Hate Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
Incidentally, “All the Rage” is the album’s best track—an irrepressible blast of melody rudely anchored by the dirt-simple frenzy of the band’s performance. Following an introduction of escalating “Ooh-ahs,” the song’s dueling, triangular guitars seem to suggest a ragged response to the karate chops of not-quite-royals Franz Ferdinand. Its chorus, on the other hand, has more in common with the softer, breathless vocal delivery of Belle & Sebastian’s “Sleep the Clock Around.” Whatever the case may be, the song figures to be featured heavily on more than a few of your next iTunes party playlists. Honestly, you won’t be able to fight it. But just how hooky is it, you ask? Think of a curly hedgehog or something. In fact, it might even be hookier than Dustin Hoffman in Hook! And that, my friends, defines as pretty hooky.
Unfortunately, though, the band has called it quits. Indeed, apparently modeling their career on the fifteen-minute noise explosions of early Jesus and Mary Chain shows, the Royal We is no more. Once again, the Vaselines’ abbreviated oeuvre comes to mind. For, despite an unusual compulsion to pass along the torch so hurriedly, the Royal We certainly seem a more than worthy addition to the still vibrant Glasgow tradition. At any rate, having jabbed at indie success and scored at least one good hit, the band and its sole record—comprising just over twenty minutes of music—will surely be remembered for its insistent, unselfconscious songs as well as its endless playability. Did I mention that they cover Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game?