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Since the release of their self-titled, debut album in 2012, Royal Headache has literally had critics and bloggers eating from their collective hands. Their raw, edgy, and gritty rock has resulted in a growing fan base, which is pretty impressive considering the quartet use to play shows on the street corners of Sydney, Australia.
Last Friday, they released their sophomore album, High, which might explain the band’s current state given the widespread love and acclaim they’ve received from early reviews. With just one listen, it’s easy to understand why people are going ballistic, which is might also describe the entire record. Throughout the ten tracks, Royal Headache blaze through one high-energy track after another, but it’s not all head-rattling stuff nor do they rely on just one sound or approach. Instead, like indie rock favorites The Men, they seamlessly move from garage rock to post-punk rock to just flat out rock ‘n roll and the result is one fantastic ride of an album.
To try to pick any standouts on the album would be foolhardy because each song is a highlight. The heavier, quicker, punk-ish tracks, such as “My Own Fantasy” and “Garbage”, recall ’70s icons Dead Kennedys and the hard rock of contemporaries like METZ and Eagulls. The blazing garage-rock heard on “High”, “Another World”, “Love Her If I Tried”, “Little Star”, and “Electric Shock” are mind-blowing good fun. The title track is noticeable for its Celtic-rock feel while “Lover Her If I Tried” recalls the catchy and hook-filled indie rock of Cloud Nothings.
On the “calmer”, more classic rock-oriented songs where the band dials down the tempo just a little, the Aussie quartet showcase a more refined sound. “Wouldn’t You Know” is a fantastic piece of songwriting and musicianship, pulsating with a dark, resonant sound that captivates. “Carolina” has a ’90s southern-rock feel that wouldn’t be out of place on a Drive-by Truckers album – a strong storyline aided by some great riffs. “Need You” is punctuated by the addition of an organ, which takes the track from Down Under to the Deep South and further showing the band’s versatility.
But beneath the high-paced and catchy songs is a person deeply affected by a broken relationship and the passion he still has for her. This is best reflected on “Need You” and “Wouldn’t You Know”, where frontman Shogun’s voice quivers at the thought of the person left behind. It is through the cathartic nature of the album that Shogun expresses his grief yet at the same time his release, making High a mind-blowing and endearing experience. Taken together, it is one of the best albums of the year.
Royal Headache are frontman Shogun, drummer Shortty, guitarist Law, and bassist Joe.
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