Theatre Royal’s fourth album, …And Then It Fell out of My Head, was the first music I had heard from the band. So it took me a while to pinpoint their sound. Which artists had influenced the four-piece from Medway, Kent, and who were they trying to emulate? I think I found this question so difficult to answer because, quite frankly, there is no one answer.
The album’s charmingly bizarre cover artwork offers no hint towards a musical style. It depicts a retro painting of a man, dressed smartly in brown suit and trilby, whose face has escaped from his head, allowing various plants and waves to escape from inside. This could be advertising anything from a Sinatra record to a psychedelic concept album.
Indeed, Theatre Royal do appear to have drawn inspiration from an extensive range of genres, stretching from 1960s punk-pop to modern folk-rock and much in between, in creating their own unique style for these 12 songs.
The initial guitar riff, steady beat and intense vocals of track one, ‘Port Bou’, initially bears resemblance to early Manic Street Preachers. An assertive start to the album, the lyrics “I stand in the cold night air, / I just stare”, coupled with lead vocalist Oliver Burgess’ fierce tone, make for a ruminative yet dynamic opening track.
Burgess continues to channel James Dean Bradfield’s iconic Manics style into song two, ‘What Has Become of Me?’ Adding depth to the traditional four-piece set up through vocal harmonies and the subtle use of a harmonica, this less aggressive yet just as absorbing second track is perhaps a better indicator of the album as a whole.
Yet Theatre Royal keep us guessing with their style, as track three brings about a progression towards modern folk-rock, channelling the likes of Frank Turner in ‘Locked Together on the Lines’.
A particular shining light is the ferociously and immediately catchy ‘Is That For You?’ Strong guitar riffs, catchy, fast-paced verses and what now seems almost a trademark use of the harmonica build the song into an instant winner even before the euphoric chorus has kicked in.
The contemplative ‘Standing in the Land’ has shades of The Smiths, while the riffs on ‘Borrowed Pen’ have you feeling it could have been plucked out of a 60s compilation CD.
The album’s penultimate track, ‘And Then It Fell Out of My Head…’ contrasts a beautifully simple plucked melody with increasingly intense choruses and a powerful climax. Perhaps a microcosm of the album as a whole, this is a fitting advert for Theatre Royal’s diverse capabilities.
In some ways, you finish the 40 minutes of …And Then It Fell out of My Head no wiser as to what musical genre you could confidently slot Theatre Royal into. But the variety of musical styles, and the consistently catchy melodies and astute lyrics, mean this can hardly be a bad thing.
With a handful of tunes already stuck in my head, and showing no signs of escaping, …And Then It Fell out of My Head is certainly an album I would recommend adding to your collection.