Reviewed by: Max Miller
On “My Own Fantasy,” the opening cut from Royal Headache’s sophomore LP High, mononymous singer Shogun proclaims, “I used to live in a world of rock ‘n’ roll and tons of girls/ It was my own fantasy.” This line best sums up the fanbase for the Sydney-based punk quartet — people who are content to reside in a dream-world where it’s perpetually 1977 and punk rock is king. It has been four years since the group’s debut self-titled full-length, which gained acclaim for the fusion of unrelenting garage-punk with Shogun’s soulful vocal stylings. This added quirk proved vital, because, in all other respects, Royal Headache are a painfully rock-by-numbers band.
Unfortunately, in the interim between LPs, Shogun’s voice seems to have taken on an increasingly Joe Strummer-meets-Paul Westerberg quality that does little to further divorce the group from their own nostalgic tendencies. Some of the blue-eyed soul leaks through on the mid-tempo cuts like “Carolina” (which still sounds a little too “Unsatisfied” for comfort) and “Wouldn’t You Know,” but over the high-energy blitzes that dominate the album, his vocals feel less distinguished than they did on Royal Headache’s first effort. Without Shogun commanding the spotlight, these two-or-three-minute barrages of power chords can get tiresome. With the exception of “Garbage,” with its bassline hook and shout-along chorus, many of the songs vanish in a blur of punk cliches.
There exists a certain kind of punk purist who will gladly hold High among such gems as London Calling, Let It Be (the Replacements one, naturally) and…umm…something by the Gaslight Anthem, maybe? For everyone else, most of these backwards-looking psalms will seem pretty vacant.