Brooklyn-based underground threesome, The Royal They, just released their debut full-length album under King Pizza Records. The self-titled record is a brilliant emotional wreck: a cutting, confrontational, and connected collection with fast-paced mood swings and refreshing hooks. Tapped into what sounds like Nirvana B-sides, The Pixies’ stop-start style, and just a hint of Alanis Morissette’s mid-nineties angsty trill, Michelle Hutt, Darrell Dumas, and Rick Martinez remind us why post-punk is a genre still worth listening to.
The record starts as if Nirvana’s Nevermind went directly from relatable mega-hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” into the B-side intro of “Aneurysm.” In other words, opening track, “Truncheon,” is just the start of a high-energy mind-fuck with short melancholic breaks necessary for completing the journey. Named after a police officer’s wooden club, “Truncheon” is a weapon unto itself, fracturing any hope for boundaries; “I guess I’ll be blunt,” sings lead singer, Michelle Hutt, who stays true to her word throughout the record. All of Hutt’s lyrics are directed toward a nameless identity, appearing in the form of “you.” “You,” as it turns out, is “an insufferable cunt,” a line that directly raised my heart rate. Hutt’s straightforward tone is why their angst works: it’s believable.
I always prefer when artists put out an album that is created as a unified piece of music rather than a mix of separated singles. The Royal They barely has breaks between songs. “Truncheon” falls right into “Pinkeye Baby,” a hectic piercing disturbia with layered and reverberated vocals. The shrillness of Hutt’s voice is so discomforting, that there’s suddenly sense to be found in her repeated statement: “Consciously not in control!” “Sex in a Public Place,” a short high-energy instrumental track – the only one on the album – expertly links the stop-start come-down of “Understate” and the cunning cut of “Countenance,” two of my favorite songs on here. The three tracks together make up a stunning moment of highs and lows.
This record seems to have two sides, and therefore deserves to be cut into vinyl. Crafted for multiple conclusions, this album’s first wind dies out with “Countenance” and then picks up again after a clean break. Side B begins with “Laurels,” an enchanting track that could be played by a post-apocalyptic marching band trucking through the mess made on Side A: mirrors shattered, upholstery torn apart etc. Never wandering too far from their post-punk personality, The Royal They don’t linger in ethereal peace, but instead toy with catchier, pop-centered structures. “I’m a Kamikaze / I rip right through your body” marks the pulsing sing-along chorus of possibly the most digestible song on the album, where “Full Metal Black” may be even more confrontational than “Truncheon:” “What do you expect me to say? / You made a fucking mistake…Go home and shatter your teeth / It doesn’t matter to me.” Even though the last five tracks don’t reach the level of hysteria found in “Pinkeye Baby,” there is no comedown finale. “Shinburner” has the sonic feel of ripping off a Band-Aid; it is a suitable last track for The Royal They. Sounding as if the Strokes jumped on to the album and then spontaneously combusted when the indie-rock riff got too hard, The Royal They sum up their ability for mania in this final minute-and-a-half. “Yeah, I bet it was just like me” sings Hutt while Rick Martinez destroys the drum-kit as he has throughout the entire album and Darrell Dumas shreds the guitar with ferocious intent, reminding us that maybe none of us are above anything. Maybe at times we have all been insufferable cunts.
Check out the album!