Royal Headache – Royal Headache

Remember The Who’s rallying cry of “Maximum R&B”? Well, it took 45 years and an Australian quartet, but Royal Headache finally fulfills that promise. Royal Headache originally surfaced in Oz late last year and it’s beyond me why it took so long to wash up on these shores, but for my money it’s the first must-hear title of 2012.

Headaches Law, Joe and Shorty (we’re already on a first name basis, apparently) crank out hook-laden, no-nonsense garage pop with the verve and breakneck pace of a first-wave punk band. Sealing the deal are the fervent wails of vocalist Shogun, who without resorting to minstrel show impersonation manages to channel the sweat, grit, and vitality of classic ’60s soul. A pair of instrumentals (“2 Kinds of Love” and “Wilson Street,” which also serve to slow the pace ever so slightly) prove the guitar/bass/drums trio has chops to spare, even though both sound ready-made for Shogun’s vocals to be plastered atop them. When the band draws upon more modern references like the crash-pop of “Psychotic Episode” it’s as if the Gold-Bears had added a vocalist hell-bent on getting laid.

A production credit goes to Mikey Young of sympatico countrymen Eddie Current Suppression Ring, who if anything I wish had brought a bit more fidelity to the raw, immediate dynamics. Unlike a lot of bashers, I don’t think these Sydney lads have anything to hide behind the muffled sonics.

Royal Headache also subscribes to the old-school adage (sometimes attributed to Bobby Womack) of “always leave them wanting more,” and clocking in under 30 minutes this twelve track joyride comes nowhere close to wearing out its welcome. But before they go Royal Headache reach a peak with “Honey Joy,” on which Shogun suddenly channels vintage Rod Stewart (who once did a pretty fine rendition of “Twistin’ the Night Away” himself) while the band delivers a more streetwise variation on the Undertones’ “Teenage Kicks.”

Another way of thinking about Royal Headache is Buzzcocks at the Apollo. And I can’t think of a self-respecting music fan who doesn’t need such a record in their collection.

Royal Headache
Royal Headache
[What’s Your Rupture?]