My God this is a good music!
I was tempted to have that simple declaration stand as my review, but as a lawyer I am bound by a secret and sacred oath to never let seven words tell the story when I can use many dozen. And that is fine, because High deserves the time to needed to provide more detailed praise. If lightning strikes and the pop music world momentarily becomes fair and just, this album will provide Royal Headache with fame and fortune. While we all suspect that won't happen, you can all do your part and get yourself a copy. It still won't make the band rich, but the intangible rewards to you will last a long time.
Musically, the band builds on its unique indie rock sound from their debut - punk fury with vocals that bear evidence of both the straining shout of punk and the emotional and sonic range of Memphis soul - by dialing back both the pace and the volume for a few songs. But make no mistake, while Royal Headache trades in songs with a pop core, the performances are taut, urgent and full-blooded. Thematically, the album deals with love and relationships. And it deals with those topics will clear-eyed appreciation for the lust, longing, sadness, uncertainties, fulfillment, and loss that are part of the package. Supposedly, frontman Shogun has said that the songs are about someone he no longer sees, which adds yet another tone to the emotional charge of the set.
The album begins with the the high voltage "My Own Fantasy". And if that song about the hollowness of the rock sex-god lifestyle was the only song on the album, followed by twenty minutes of Shogun saying "check" into the mic, I'd still recommend it. But the truth is that it isn't the best song on the album by a long shot. In fact, it is rivaled by the urgent plea of the following "Need You", and lapped by the showcase love anthem and title track (stream below). The chugging "Another World" continues the frenetic pace.
The fifth song, "Wouldn't You Know" provides the album's biggest change of pace. The mid-tempo arrangement begins with a dusty spaghetti western feel and evolves with cinematic scope while discussing the uncertainty in making a commitment. But the throbbing and biting "Garbage" brings the volume and fury back to previous levels. "Love Her If I Tried" is a wonderful dose of garage soul about a failed attempt at a relationship. Track 8 is "Caroline" (video below). I love "Caroline" -- it is one of my three favorite songs on the albums and is a pure dose of feel good rock. "Little Star" is the rebirth of the Buzzcocks (and we could all use some Buzzcocks in our life). "Electric Shock" is the perfect closing track: 90 seconds of punk aggression and wry commentary. Lights up, everyone leave the area with their bodies vibrating.
If you are still reading this review rather than playing the clips and buying the album, I have failed a bit here. I'm going to go drown my sorrows, but before I go, I again urge you to get High.
Royal Headache is Shogun (vocals), Shortty (drums), Law (guitar) and Joe (bass). High is out now via What's Your Rupture in vinyl, CD and digital formats in most of the world, and on the band's own Distant and Vague label in Australia. The band currently is touring in North America; the remaining dates are provided below.
What's Your Rupture site for US purchases
Rough Trade site for UK purchases
Wed. Aug. 19 – Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle
Thu. Aug. 20 – Detroit, MI @ UFO
Fri. Aug. 21 – Toronto, ON @ Silver Dollar
Sat. Aug. 22 – Montreal, QC @ La Vitrola
Mon. Aug. 24 – Boston, MA @ The Great Scott
Tue. Aug. 25 – Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade
Thu. Aug. 27 – Baltimore, MD @ Windup Space
Fri. Aug. 28 – Philadelphia, PA @ PhilaMOCA
Sat. Aug. 29 – Brooklyn, NY @ Palisades