Australia aren’t short on great rock bands right now, but something sets Royal Headache apart. Sure, there may be wilder (Blank Realm), more complex (King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard) and more renowned (Tame Impala) groups out there, but there aren’t any that can hit you in the feelings like this band. This grimy four-piece make punk rock focused on passion instead of politics, and songs that float on gorgeous melody lines even when the drums and guitars seem intent on biting your face off. Their sweaty set at Broadcast elevated the passion to levels of viscera beyond that capable on record. Royal Headache are certainly at home packed into a darkened basement bar.
Vocalist, Shogun – joined by Joe, Law and Shortty on bass, guitar and drums – has always been at the centre of what makes the group’s dynamic work so well. His urgent yelp has soul hidden within it’s cracked edges; his ability to take your standard shouty chorus and make it emotionally affecting reminds of some of the classic Britpop bands. The group manage to squeeze catharsis out of simple structures and wailing choruses in the same way Oasis could.
It takes a few tracks for Shogun to fully warm up tonight, though, his melodies flattened from within muddy layers of guitar feedback. Still, the band’s energy and tightness propel these early moments successfully. Shogun whips his shirt off at one point, and it seems as if the whole group relax with him. From this point on, they deliver one belter after another.
‘High’, the titular track from the band’s latest release, is an obvious highlight. A sturdy, stomping backbone sits under Shogun’s anxious shouts. It’s a song about desiring love, but his performance makes you believe he’s lost a lot more than just his lover. It’s also one of the few songs where the band take a breather and relax the tempo. For most of the set, their relentlessly upbeat playing is a complete joy.
This energy is most impressive on their giddy cover of Womack and Womack’s ‘Teardrop’, where the skittering drums and interlocked bass and guitar weave seamlessly through tempo changes and rumbling breakdowns. Shogun keeps his cool and glides through the lovesick chorus in a twisted yelp, bringing more darkness than seemed possible on a song so positive in its original form. Shogun shrugs that they don’t really do covers before they begin; they could live on covers alone if they’re anything like this.
Before the band launch into the last couple of songs, a Glasgow girl asks the band to hurry up in her native tongue (“Mon’ Tae Fuck!”), to which the band scratch their heads.
“Mon’ Tae Fuck! Play Fantasy, ya C****”. “Morning Fuck?” replies Shogun. “Mon’ Tae Fuck!” answer the crowd. After adlibbing a melody for “Morning Fuck”, the band crack on.
It’s literally the only moment throughout the set where the emotions weren’t exactly translating correctly. For a band that live half way across the world, Royal Headache speak to the anxieties and doubts of Scottish young people in a way not many can.
Their answer to these anxieties? Mosh Pit. A glorious, feverish mess of jumping forms for the band’s biggest hit, ‘Another World’, with which they close their set. For a group that look so comfortable on the pub scene, their set tonight suggests that they deserve a stage much bigger the next time they’re around.
This Royal Headache review was written by Stephen Butchard, a Gigsoup contributor. Photo credit 85rich101