From near band breakups, to signing with an American-based record label, to becoming the opening act for the Black Keys' national tour, to police storming the steps of the Opera House and shutting down their Vivid performance earlier this year, the last four years have been an emotional roller coaster for Sydney-based garage punks Royal Headache. So at a much-needed time to ground oneself and to truly show how much these lads have evolved, they have decided to release their second album - a very long awaited follow-up to 2011's self-titled debut.
On High the band is back and in full swing, ready to tear down society’s walls with their unique sound. They are still holding on to their old school punk rock ways and infusing it with that mod revival sound of the 80’s and that underlying soul/funk influence of the 70’s. Fans will not be disappointed. The boys have really worked hard on finalizing their sound and the end production is tight.
From the moment the pounding guitar came through my headphones I was already hooked. Raspy vocals sing of the dreams they once had and the heartbreaking realization that one’s fantasies can’t survive especially when the real world is knocking at your door. The next 29 minutes are a musical journey and at the helm is lead singer Shogun.
The album at first listen has a very manic track structure and could almost be mistaken for two very different albums somehow puzzled together. I wonder if this is a reflection of the two conflicting problems that they are facing. One; needing to put together a new album while two; dealing with a singer that no longer feels like he can be part of the band's journey.
It is very evident though that it is in fact Shogun's vocals that are the standout on every track. His soulful voice is thrust to the forefront. Tracks like “My Own Fantasy” and “High” are very reminiscent of The Pogues - you know, that arm around your comrades, swaying, fist pumping in the air, swigging beer while chanting about the revolt to come. Other such songs as “Carolina” and “ Another World” teeter upon pop with their bubble gum sounding guitars and “lalalala"s thrown in over the chorus, until the passionate raspy vocals bring us back to the gritty world of punk rock.
You will find tales of love lost, rejection, and self-pity, though there's something quite romantic about the vulnerability that’s shared on this album. It's high energy and it's raw and the best way to hear it is loud loud loud! It will have you up out of your seat jumping around and chanting along. My one fault with this album is it’s just not long enough, but then that’s the spirit of punk. Short, fast and to the point.
High is out on CD, vinyl and digital formats on Friday August 21.