The Upshot: Noisy Aussie punk/garage rockers display a newfound melodic side.
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Royal Headache burst into the underground rock & roll scene on the strength of its self-titled 2012 debut, a rush of youthful punk & roll energy recorded as shittily as possible. Three years and one rumored breakup later, the Sydney band leaps back into the fray with High.
The most immediately noticeable change is in sound quality – the production makes the leap from the lowest of lo-fi to a mid-fi sound that leaves dirt around the edges of clarity. All the better to hear what we all suspected the first time around, which is that the group’s songcraft is of a higher standard than garage rock usually requires. “Need You,” “Love Her If I Tried” and the title track exploit the sound quality to jangle instead of crash, while “Garbage” works a midtempo groove with anthemic intensity. “Wouldn’t You Know” flows almost like a ballad, with heart-on-sleeve tenderness and vulnerability. Just in case we forget whose album this is, the punky pop zoom that marked the first LP manifests itself as “Another World,” “Little Star” and the opening salvo “My Own Fantasy.”
The gain in fidelity allows the band to perform with less frenetic energy, since they don’t have to punch through a grey cloud of crap, and some fans may find the loss of that breathless rush an unfair trade. But High allows us to finally hear the craft behind Royal Headache’s attack, and that bespeaks a great guitar pop act still on the rise.
DOWNLOAD: “Garbage,” “Wouldn’t You Know,” “My Own Fantasy”