Release Date: May 8, 2012
Record label: What's Your Rupture?
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Garage Punk, Indie Rock
The guys in Royal Headache hit on a pretty good formula when they got together. What would Otis Redding have sounded like if he were in a punk band? Or conversely, what would the Damned have sounded like with a soul singer fronting them? Their debut self-titled album answers the question with a resounding "awesome!" as it slams through 12 super-exciting songs in 26 minutes. From the testifying vocals of Shogun to the razor-sharp guitar work of Law and the tight-as-nails rhythm section of drummer Shotty and bassist Joe (guess they ran out of nicknames), everything about Royal Headache is spot-on soul-punk without a single wasted note.
For all its genre-defying, flag-burning, fist-pumping bluster, there’s an awful lot of soul buried beneath the stony guise of punk rock. Like good soul music, punk cuts to the core, and the fun of being a fan is letting those raw emotions take over. It doesn’t matter if it’s the same chords or melodies over and over. The sentiment is universal and infinite.At its heart, Royal Headache is a soul band.
"When he sings, it just comes out. " That was Chris "Shortty" Short, drummer of soulful Sydney garage-punkers Royal Headache, expressing his own awe at the vocal stylings of his bandmate Shogun to Pitchfork's Evan Minsker. A half century past its born-on date, in the midst of yet another uptick in interest in the scuzzy stuff, and even the best of garage rock's new breed's not exactly long on surprises; the cream of this particular crop, as our Jayson Greene rightly noted a week back, "plays upon beloved memories while confusing them," but the worst of it simply seems to content itself with rehashing of somebody else's past glories.
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.
Without even the slightest warning, it just starts. There’s no need to build a tonic chord in Royal Headache’s career opener Never Again – it does, however, set the groove with a hulking rhythm section that hurtles full-throttle without concerning itself with coming to a complete stop before it hits red. And out of nowhere appears a glandular set of pipes, courtesy of bandleader Shogun, hastily evoking as much emotion as he can in the little amount of space that’s been provided to him in those quick-fire verses.
Royal Headache almost destroyed itself. After recording the instrumentation for its self-titled debut in just two days, the Aussie quartet spent 15 months bickering about the final mixes. Lead singer Shogun temporarily quit the band because of the turmoil. It was uncertain if the album would ever come out.
Royal Headache’s self-titled debut album does not live up to its name: Neither painful-sounding nor pain-inducing, the album is in fact a very pleasurable, punk-inspired listen. This is no-nonsense, fast-flying garage rock, played by four guys whose single-word nicknames are just as straightforward as their sound: Shortty, Joe, Shogun and Law. The Aussie quartet opens with a bang on “Never Again,” where frontman Shogun sings, “We make a fine pair, you and me/Don’t you agree?” There’s a lot of relationship talk on this album, amid the hard-hitting drums and fast and loose guitar work.
Royal Headache's eponymous debut, reissued stateside after a 2011 release Down Under, strikes with a rugged fury that throws the Goner Records vault straight into Sam Cooke's Harlem Square Club. It's a sock hop in tattered T-shirts, kicked off with two-minute "Never Again" – none of Royal Headache's 12 tracks come within a furious hook line of three minutes – that premieres in fourth gear. Shouting over shiny guitars and a gut-busting rhythm section, shouter Shogun's focus stays fixed: "Girls," "Two Kinds of Love," and the psychotic episodes both bring.