Royal Headache – Royal HeadachePosted by Jason Simpson
On their self-titled debut, Australia’s Royal Headache manage to make something that is simultaneously timeless and of the moment. Their music is the antidote to apathy and boredom. This quartet sincerely believes in the alchemical properties of pop music, taking bittersweet moments of confusion and resentment and channeling them into irresistible vignettes. The songs of Royal Headache will snare in your brain like a fish hook, and leave you gasping like a Dilaudid fiend.
Royal Headache do not re-invent the wheel. They just like what they like, wearing their influences a little too plainly (like the blatant cop from the guitar intro from The Strokes’ “Is This It?” or borrowing the chord progression from “Somebody to Love” by The Jefferson Airplane on “Really in Love”). It raises the question of how important is originality in music. Royal Headache cherry pick the best moments from the history of rock ‘n soul from their record collections and condense them into this transmission of sonic joy.
It’s not existential or theoretical. It is immediate, an adrenaline blast down your femoral artery. It will make you bop and sway. It will make you smile. The recordings are raw and real, the instrumentals often sound like they were recorded in a cardboard box, which stamps this record squarely in 2012. They’re not really trying to be rock ‘n roll revisionists, even if “Down the Lane” could be a great lost Beatles’ outtake from the Hamburg days. Instead, they’re summoning the spirit of rock (escapism, reckless abandon, optimism and romance), playing it with a punk rock fury born and bred in a billion basements. It is stripped down and essential, every drum fill perfect and in place. A groove machine while the bass holds it all down and Law’s guitar spits and screams above the din.
The latter third of the album sounds as if it were recorded in a different studio or setting than the beginning, and the drums and bass really benefit from the increase in fidelity. “Wilson Street” is a sweet little instrumental, and “Honey Joy” is a perfect pop song, space organ bringing the gospel while the drums keep it rushing forward until the guitars provide a moment of levity. It seems that Royal Headache have learned a thing or two while making this record. At this rate, with their sharp and catchy guitar hooks married to incredibly keen song-writing sensibilities, this band is primed to explode.
If you like rock ‘n roll, you will dig this record. If you don’t, you may find it derivative and unnecessary. Fans of Guided By Voices’ fuzzed-out meta-pop, or the 2000s brand of garage rock, all distorted and reverb laden, Royal Headache have some delights in store for you.