Douglas Martin put a fiver in the jukebox
What do you think of when you read the term “soul-punk?” Probably Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies, right? If you’re unfamiliar with Royal Headache’s massively enjoyable debut record (one of our favorite albums of 2012), it might be hard to convince you there is a band out there that melds the best of both genres without the ironic wink or the aftertaste of pastiche. Blaring guitars and expressive singing — not singing in the punk-rock iteration, but actual, honest-to-god singing — which hits all the notes but is rough enough to tell it’s really coming from the pit of someone’s insides.
The title-track of their forthcoming album High, this new Royal Headache song stays in the lane the Australian quartet paved for themselves Motown-indebted garage jams like “Distant and Vague” (a song so good they named their new label after it). There are two kinds of bands: The sort who are better served by restless experimentation and the type who do one style so well that you’re well-enough satiated by six or seven albums worth of it. Guess which one Royal Headache is.
“High,” like every other Royal Headache song, derives its power from its frontman Shogun, whose voice suggests he’s been singing along to a jukebox in the backrooms of dive bars, a plate of food spinning alongside the records. The lyrics aren’t exactly poetry — the gist of them lightly gloss being intoxicated by a person’s presence — but the melody and delivery is so indelible (addictive, even), you can’t help but sing along anyway. And that’s the strength of Royal Headache; reinvention of musical forms is not their forte. But what they do reaches inside of you, that’s why it was called soul music in the first place.