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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Will the Buzzy, Blaring Royal Headache Help Australia Get the Rock Recognition it Deserves?

Posted By on Wed, Jun 20, 2012 at 8:52 AM

click to enlarge royal_headache_cover_shot.jpg

Australia's Royal Headache is set to simultaneously soothe and dizzy attendees at Bay Area appearances this weekend with its hook-laden, buzz-saw garage rock. The strength of the band's self-titled debut record has helped revive American interest in Australian music. But it's not the first time an Australian group has assimilated traditional tropes of Americana and churned out superior results, and there are many other groups from the country currently doing just the same.

Australian rock seems to be either just ahead of the West in innovation, or briskly following up with interesting variations. For example, in 1976 The Saints released a punk single earlier than any group in the UK. The Scientists' swampy dirges in the 1980s suggested a group listening to records by Americans like The Cramps and Gun Club through a mangled turntable stylus while skinning Tasmanian Devils for sport. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds were capable of conjuring a twisted blues as diabolical as anything from the Delta.

The legacy of Australian innovation in rock is flourishing today, with imports from Eddy Current Suppression Ring, HTRK, and Total Control carving a niche in their respective fields of garage, druggy synth, and post-punk. Of most immediate interest however, is Royal Headache, which performs this Friday (June 22) at 1-2-3-4 Go! Records and this Sunday (June 24) at Thee Parkside. We featured the band's debut on our list of innovative Australian groups earlier this year, before its domestic release on New York's What's Your Rupture?, and praised it for sounding so classic without self-consciously referencing older varieties of rock. In modern punk, garage and power pop, pastiche often passes for quality, but Royal Headache tastefully plucks elements from all without indulging too heavily.

In a manner indicative of Australian groups, Royal Headache raises the standard for a genre most often associated with the United States. Unlike Japan, where American rock is assimilated and dramatically caricatured, groups hailing from Australia often churn out superior versions. With the music community becoming increasingly globalized, the continent's exports are reaching us quicker. Instead of recognizing Australian innovation after the fact, groups like Royal Headache enjoy domestic release of their music and invitations to perform in the U.S shortly after forming.

Of course, this scenario can create hype that deflates once a group performs, but that hasn't been the case with Royal Headache or other recent Australian arrivals. The flurry of coverage and praise for Total Control's Henge Beat was followed up by a slew of impressive stateside performances by the group last year that culminated in a split release with San Francisco's own Thee Oh Sees. The reunited Feedtime played a powerful set at their San Francisco appearance earlier this year as well.

The coverage of Royal Headache's American tour has so far been beaming, so we anticipate two hype-worthy Bay Area performances this weekend. We don't mean incite an international competition. Australia has simply been historically under-credited for its steady output of innovative rock 'n' roll. Not until recently have bands like Royal Headache begun to tour and release records in America with the stateside support they deserve.

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Sam Lefebvre

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