Release Date: Aug 21, 2015
Record label: What's Your Rupture?
When Royal Headache started playing shows in Sydney around 2009, they made rock music in the city feel vital again. It’s rare for Sydney’s underground scene to birth bands as widely palatable as Royal Headache, and it’s even rarer for those bands to transcend the small pubs and warehouses they play in. Royal Headache felt like magic in 2009. They were a phenomenon.
Amid the glut of great bands who have roared out of Australia’s blooming rock underground in the past decade or so, Royal Headache stood out from the start: four Sydney scruffs melding wind-tunnel punk with teary-eyed rock’n’roll soul, blessed with a singer (known only as Shogun, apparently even to his mum) who belts out head-rush melodies with a rare fire and flair. After releasing a terrific debut album in 2011, various troubles and tensions eventually led to Shogun walking away from the band; but now they’re back in action, and have finally finished their long-delayed second LP. And oh, it’s a joy: from the hurtling, hammering hooks of Another World to the stately old soul of Carolina, this is another fantastically compact and compelling set of songs that thread several decades’ worth of heartbreak-rock tactics together with style, skill and guileless honesty.
There’s a 2011 live video in which Royal Headache’s gangly, hawk-eyed frontman Shogun laments the fact he’s got to work in a call centre the next day. “Fuck, man,” he sighs, loathing himself. Four years later and he’s still manning the phones there.Part of a select group featuring Milk Music and Sheer Mag, Royal Headache are one of those non-UK bands (they’re always non-UK) who have the ability to infuriate garage-rock fans.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Royal Headache's self-titled debut album from 2012 was a 26-minute blast of fuzz rock pop gems, and the immediacy of its scrappy but electrifying guitar work is what earned them a fanbase who drifted over from garage and lo-fi tendencies. However, Royal Headache's real ace in the hole is the gloriously soulful voice of Shogun, their singer, who reportedly took eight months to perfect his performance on the debut album.
After crashing the garage punk scene with a brilliant debut album that sounded like a lo-fi Undertones backing a barely audible-for-all-the-noise Otis Redding, Royal Headache return with a second album that does a little bit of cleaning up, but sacrifices none of their ragged, rough soul. On High, the sound takes a small leap into the mid-fi range, with the guitars sounding fuller and tighter, the rhythm section delivering a heavier punch, and some subtle keyboards added to the mix. Most importantly, vocalist Shogun is no longer buried in the mix.
Sydney, Australia surf punks Royal Headache last left us swooning in 2011 with their earnest self-titled debut. After taking four years off to reassess their sound and re-establish their creative focus, the boys are back with their sophomore effort, High, and it seems the hiatus did them good. A fast-paced stomp of short, melodic cuts that are deliciously scuzzy, High turns up Royal Headache's heat and brings it to the boiling point.Lead singer Shogun's voice, all Robert Smith bravado, is versatile, allowing him to be both sweet and gruff in the same breath — an effective mechanism for weaving the album's wistful tale of romantic love lost.
A couple of minutes into their sophomore LP High, Australian pub-punks Royal Headache stumble upon an important lesson for a young band: Rock’n’roll is a lie. Or as their singer, known solely and mysteriously as Shogun, puts it, the money, the drugs, the “tons of girls” were all just “fantasy.” Getting in a van, sweating and stinking with three of your best frenemies, that’s real, and they’ve made a record that capably evokes that disillusionment. It’s twinkling and sprightly like the promise of a dream, but crushing like the reality of its deferment — realist rock with all of the grit and none of the grandeur.
A recent Royal Headache show at the Sydney Opera House got stopped by police. During "Down the Lane", fans crashed the stage en masse, and when the chorus hit, they sang it as hard as they could. The scene became more raucous as the band sped into "Girls", and that's when cops eventually muscled the crowd off stage. A woman who'd eluded the wall of neon-vested officers took the mic and said, "I love you, Shogun." She was speaking to the band's sweaty, shirtless frontman who'd just been singing his heart out, lost somewhere in the mass of bodies.
Heirs to the jangly garage-pop throne, Australia's Royal Headache show sublime restraint with High, delivering on the romantic promise of their fantastically unhinged 2011 self-titled debut. In an alternate reality where authenticity trumped the culture of celebrity, immensely talented singer Shogun would be the biggest pop star in the universe. (www.royalheadache.com.au) .
Dust off your Chucks and leather jackets for this one. The years following Sydney rock & roll crew Royal Headache's 2012 debut have been filled with critical acclaim and breakup rumors, but they've pulled it together for a thunderous new album. Frontman Shogun, who's got a dusky, Motown-style croon, takes his teenage kicks to sentimental heights in "High" and soars to the heavens in "Carolina," a rugged gospel tune exalting a girl long gone.
No matter what goes down, Royal Headache can always claim they were committed. The Sydney punks released their debut in 2011, earning acclaim for their inclusion of soul vocals amid lo-fi punk. But while they churned out perfectly cut, bite-sized songs akin to Pizza Rolls for the rebellious, aspirational soul, the four members ran headfirst into internal disagreement.
?It’s been four years since Royal Headache released their debut album, a self-titled instant cult classic, but that success came tinged with tension. For a while it, even seemed like their first collection would be their swan songs. But as we all now know, that was not the case. Placing their legacy on the line, Royal Headache are back, and as a result are soaring as High as ever.
The first album by the Australian band Royal Headache was better than good — rushed, trebly, volatile garage-punk, with a singer who took his job unusually seriously. His name was Shogun, and he sounded close to the surface. He sang a lot about heartsickness and a little about head-sickness. Excitingly, he seemed to be in the process of finding his voice — he could settle in a vague midrange, or push it up high, heaving out bright lines full of chest and grit, getting at Sam Cooke via early Rod Stewart, or a second-tier British Invasion singer.