Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Royal Headache - s/t (What's Your Rupture?)

Punk broke rock. It also gave us a way to put it back together. In the aftermath, rock & roll has consisted of experiments in assemblage. We amalgamate the past with the tools and license punk rock repurposed from the poor and uncool, a.k.a. DIY.
Royal Headache are four dudes from Australia that used to be in punk bands. Now they fill out a classic line-up of guitar, bass, drums and leadsinger, dialing it in with a thorough sampler of tones, turns and bends from the ’60s (think surf, doo-wop, Northern soul), ran through power-pop and sped up using the jangly charm that David Gedge re-gifted after the divorce. (The Wedding Present—get it?) The output is all too familiar, but it provides a suitable base for the unveiling of their golden egg: the androgynous, jarringly sexy vocals of some old soul that goes by the name of Shogun. It melts the corners of what is public domain and cracks at the height of his lyrical affirmations. It guides the form. It works for three songs at a time before the musical cliches starts to poke through again. But this doesn’t bother Royal Headache. Their music is an exercise in fandom, musicianship and camaraderie. Songs are crafted from songs, while nothing is too personal. There is no politic to embrace, but the almighty incumbent and punk’s main export. DIY has tenure.
Elizabeth Murphy

from Agit Reader
As I was reading the band's press, I found it odd that "unpretentious" was used at least twice in describing their music... or identity, or attitude, or whatever. Point being, this was the adjective repeated to garner interest and give praise. We are talking about garage rock here, pretension is not the stereotype that needs to be contradicted or affirmed. All garage rock knows what it is and does not claim to be anything more. 

In regard to artists and musicians in general, it should be understood that most operate with a heightened level of self-importance. Developing yourself as an artist is a solitary venture for a long time and the ego must be intact - an exercise which often results in inflation. This should not matter. We are not trying to hang out with these folks. Tasked to inspire, they are the great intimidators. How can that occur with a mythology intent to underwhelm complete with a party invitation? 
Of course social media and the proliferation of images impels us, fans and stars alike, to feel more connected to each other. If the reads like the obligatory digital age smear sentence, it probably is.  
I believe Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to be one of the more impressive albums of recent years. And this is not some underground pop accident, everything seemed in place for the record to reach those in need. His public misbehavior and the tangible blacklisting that followed were both the fuel needed to make the album what it is and the reason it will not receive the attention and praise it is due in his time. In a country typically indulgent of a good comeback, it verges on conspiracy that he is not more highly respected...for his art. This is the product asked of him, and as with all great works, it speaks for itself. But the overwhelming response to his call is a critique on his personality. "People always tell you, 'Be humble'," he tells audiences from the stage during the Watch the Throne tour, "when was the last time someone told you to be amazing?" 

Great question. So many bands just ask if we can be friends. The music is good enough: it's inoffensive, it comes from the right place, it's capable..... it can hang, but nothing in it moves or changes minds, and it lacks potential for doing so in the future.  My standards, as a serious music listener of a certain age, are high. Towards art, I am looking for a serious relationship. As the dejected lover always responds; I don't need anymore friends.