Royal Headache – Royal Headache

January 01, 1970

(What’s Your Rupture?)


Royal Headache’s debut begins in a pounding, pummeling riff-based
rampage, all double-timed guitar strumming and frantic one-two drumming. “Never
Again,” the lead off track, runs as fast and hard and ragged as any punk
anthem, taking the corners with two wheels off the ground. Yet fine as the
band’s all-out mayhem can be, that’s not what sets this Aussie foursome apart. You
see,  Royal Headache is a punk band with
a secret weapon, the sandpaper-y sweet, classic-rock-into-1960s soul vocals of
Shogun, the singer whose raspy romanticism calls up memories of Jam-era Paul
Weller, Ted Leo,  Kevin Rowland of Dexy’s
Midnight Runners, even Rod Stewart in his rougher, earlier, Faces days.


Look no further than “Psychotic Episode” to see what happens when a
great punk rhythm trio (scrabbly, manic Law on guitar, indomitable Shorty on
drums, Joe on rapid-fire, soul-funk inflected bass) gets behind an actual
singer. The song has the furious scramble of the Buzzcocks’ “Boredom”, all
jagged, slash-and-pop eighth notes, but Shogun stretches out the long notes
like Tom Jones, a Northern soul crooner working at blur speed, keeping up with
a freight train but never losing heart.


Not that Shogun is the only reason to check out Royal Headache. An
all-instrumental “2 Kinds of Love” demonstrates just how tightly this band
integrates punk, rock and soul and how well they play together. With no vocals
to grab your attention, you can focus on the rhythmic interplay of Shorty’s
crashing cymbals and jungle toms and Joe’s bubbling, soft-edged Motown bass or
the way that trebly guitar riffs cut through the murk like hot knives in
butter. Yet it’s undeniable that Shogun steals the spotlight whenever he steals
up to the mic – never more so than in the buoyant “Honey Joy” where, hoarse to
the point of laryngitis, he puts the soul into Royal Headache’s radiant pop


Royal Headache’s self-titled came out last year on the Australian
R.I.P. Society label and turned up on quite a few forward-looking 2011 lists. This
American reissue is exactly the same, but intended for the wider release that the
band so obviously deserves. 


DOWNLOAD: “Psychotic
Episode,” “Honey Joy” JENNIFER


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