A recent Royal Headache show at the Sydney Opera House got stopped by police. During "Down the Lane", fans crashed the stage en masse, and when the chorus hit, they sang it as hard as they could. The scene became more raucous as the band sped into "Girls", and that's when cops eventually muscled the crowd off stage. A woman who'd eluded the wall of neon-vested officers took the mic and said, "I love you, Shogun." She was speaking to the band's sweaty, shirtless frontman who'd just been singing his heart out, lost somewhere in the mass of bodies.Royal Headache have earned this beer-slinging, shout-along adulation fair and square. The songs of 2012's Royal Headache were catchy, loud, fuzzy, and frantic, and Shogun's voice has absurd range, plenty of force, and soul. It took three years to follow up on this debut, and with High they waste no time charging back in. On opener "My Own Fantasy", Shogun belts "I used to live in a world of rock'n'roll and tons of girls!" over a chugging, high-power intro. At a glance, it seems he's going through rock-god motions—romanticizing guitar music while extolling the virtues of fucking multiple strangers. Really, though, the song is about that bubble finally bursting—the sudden, cold feeling of loneliness even while fans are singing along and dancing all around you.If there's an underlying sense of dissatisfaction here, it's safe to assume it might have something to do with the band's emotional state over the past year. In one interview, Shogun said he broke the band up due to their "dysfunctional" dynamic. (It was later clarified that they weren't breaking up after all.) In a statement, he said the whole album is "about someone I don't see anymore." The open wounds of relationship turmoil fuel High. The band are frenzied on "Need You", one of the best songs in their repertoire (buoyed significantly by Gabrielle de Giorgio's organ line). It's a song about professing love to no avail and eventually having those feelings decay into fruitless obsession. On "Another World", Shogun accuses the person he's with of judging him for superficial reasons. Both songs are as melodic and upbeat as anything on their debut.Shogun labors over his vocals in the recording process, and his care shows. He could easily soul-scream all over the place, but instead he holds off on the high notes until the perfect moment comes around. He simmers calmly while addressing someone running scared from new love on "Wouldn't You Know". He's dismissive and contemptuous on "Garbage". When he does let loose, it's almost disorienting. He belts over and over during "Love Her If I Tried", and just when he appears to be going at full power, he seems to momentarily unhinge his jaw for one enormous, cathartic high note.They still thrive on adrenaline and huge sing-along choruses, and "High" and "Electric Shock" deliver the dependable goods. They're not just going through the motions, though. "Carolina", with its acoustic underpinnings, is a surprisingly pastoral plea. The hook is indelible, stirring memories of other people singing the words "sweet Caroline". As ever, it's catchy and full of emotion. Royal Headache have taken steps forward since their last album—they've cleaned up their production and diversified their songwriting. Ultimately, though, the important bits are intact: the passion, the power, and the hooks that demand being shouted joyfully.-- What's Your Rupture?
item # 39368