Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Without urgency, rock and roll music just plays to the pleasure centers of the brain that interpret loveliness and compassion, the layers of goodness that force people to sway without thinking about it and swinging arms and tapping heels with the same intoxicated rudiment. It's what we people do. It's how we respond to different chord progressions and notes that fly together like Blue Angels and flirting barn swallows. There's no fighting the consequences of catchiness or bubbly bursts. Some bands don't feel it necessary to be the one with the urgent calls and the sweaty numbers and pits. They go the route of being pumping up the beauty and slowly ambling through the clearing, making the lovers drop to their knees from overload.
Royal Bangs try to maximize both sides of that swinging pendulum, making their music sock you with a sucker punch in the gut as they take off running in the opposite direction, fuming a chase, and then helping you settle back down with a little free-verse sing-along concession once the chase has ended itself. Then again, the chase is never really over, when it comes to Royal Bangs, who get the blood all riled up and want to escape in forty different directions all at the same time. They cause civil wars in all of the aforementioned pleasure centers, like a "less filling/tastes great" argument of different proportions and substance. Tunefulness body slams big balls of energy and then those balls of energy leap back to their feet and slide tackle the sweet-eared tunefulness, its half-brother in the song's family tree. The two aspects share freckles, the same hair color, mannerisms and finish each other's sentences, whether they like that it happens or not.
There are moments of defiance on the band's songs and there are moments of delicate compromise and epic discourse that somehow place the intersection of what they're doing somewhere in the center of the dividing line of Bono singing Fig Dish covers or Superdrag's "Sucked Out" getting a dozen intrinsically different makeovers. There is an instantaneous acknowledgement of the band's appreciation for late 60s and early 70s garage rock, pulling the lesser referenced pieces into a place where they can be toyed with and made into these stampedes of wearable flashpoints, all of which gleam with a smirk, clever sparklings and jaws that could sink their adult teeth into your arms or the side of your neck and never let go. The funny thing is that the act doesn't hurt a bit, the adrenaline is pumping so fast that there's just assistance and participation from the neck and arms to get those teeth in there deeper because it's a sensation that it can't argue with.
The Royal Bangs do not let anyone really escape their clutches. They act and they act all over you, forcing you to belly up to their bar to just drink it all down - throw back the hatch and toss the sauce down the throat, shake out the warm snake slithering down into the pits, slam the glass down onto the wooden surface and get back out to that jittery dance floor where we can all do some more singing at the tops of our lungs. We'll sit down when we're dead, they make us repeat over and over again.
*Essay originally published January, 2009