Frontier Psychiatrist

A Punk Rock Teenager in Love: A Review of Royal Headache

Posted on: May 25, 2012

Royal Headache _Cover_Review

No one would doubt that Royal Headache is a punk album, but it’s really only punk in production only (PIPO). Lo-fi recording techniques (apparently, it took a day and a half to record), distorted chords and the ability to jam 12 tracks in 26 minutes are certainly trademarks of a punk release. However, closer listens betray the hard punk exterior, showing a bunch of sensitive dudes who would make fine prom dates. Honestly, the only thing this record is missing is a Del Shannon organ break.

I imagine a broken turntable and some worn-out 50s teen idol compilations inspired the debut album from Royal Headache, the quickly rising punk rock foursome out of Sydney. The sped-up, crashed-out record—released last year, but just now making it’s way to the states thanks to a reissue from What’s Your Rupture?—sounds like a Dion 33 1/3 spun at 45 speed with a busted needle, which manages to transform the backing singers into Telecasters. The lead track “Never Again” is the first evidence of such. “We make a fine pair, you and me/Don’t you agree?”

Pop music certainly had a bit more charm back in the late-50s early-60s, and it’s clear that Royal Headache is trying to bring the best of that world into the new-grunge sound of the 2010s. Singers were earnest; guitarists painted a romantic background, and most importantly, bassists knew how to lay a groove. Instrumental track “2 Kinds of Love” has a perfect wandering bassline that fills in the space between the surf beat and trebly chords.

This album has already to begun to get some high praise from the states, with writers quick to liken it to the sounds of Motown or Otis Redding, but both comparisons read a bit forced and off the mark. Sure, vocalist “Shogun” has got some pretty soul-filled pipes, but there’s a bit more bubblegum influence and carefree attitude to this record that those classic soul pieces lacked. Think The Marcels meet The Ramones, or The Chiffons meet The Buzzcocks, like some wacky The Flintstones meet The Jetsons TV special. “Distant and Vague” might chart better if it was listed under its original name: “Teenager in Love”. “She won’t be happy without love/No one is happy without love.”

As a poorly traveled, highly influenced young American, I imagine Australia is something like a Bizzaro Great Britain: the sun shines, girls are pretty and there’s tons of wilderness. So, inside this dumbed down worldview, the allure of Royal Headache is clear. While acts from the motherland tend to err on the side of gloomy, Royal Headache makes you want to feel like a teenager with concise, timeless pop jams.


Royal Headache is currently on tour. You can catch them in Chicago at Burlington with OBN IIIs on 6/7, another FP punk rock favorite, or in NYC at Warsaw on 6/13 with Ceremony and Screaming Females, who you know we’re big fans of. 

Peter Lillis is Managing Editor of Frontier Psychiatrist. He feels good about our royal week, despite this royal headache.


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