Words: James Frostick
Band image: Kaitlyn Hickey

Naarm/Melbourne group Romero returns with a brand-new single called ‘Troublemaker’, helping blow back the leaden clouds that have lingered over our heads for most of the year. Another slice of euphoric power-pop brilliance, ‘Troublemaker’ reaffirms Romero’s emergence as one of the more vital and exciting things to happen in 2020.

January was a weird month. Most of the country was still actively concerned with fighting widespread bushfires, while COVID-19 was a curious, if not largely unfamiliar, anomaly that was slowly gestating an ocean away. Things weren’t exactly great but, after everything that’s occurred since, they seem like salad days. Weirdo Wasteland was also in a weird spot, too – I was considering wrapping things up after a burnout-induced hiatus, on the precipice of letting the site float on as a digital curio, gradually becoming obsolete. Then came Naarm/Melbourne five-piece Romero, with its debut double A-side ‘Honey’/’Neapolitan’ in tow. All of a sudden it seemed like things would be okay – 2020 was off to a joyous start; surely the ensuing months would follow suit. Well, at that point the onset of the pandemic wasn’t something anyone (anyone who wasn’t already monitoring the early growth of COVID-19, that is) could have predicted. Circumstances were firmly out of Romero’s control, but what should have been whirlwind year of making one’s bones, earning one’s stripes, cutting one’s teeth and realising one’s early potential was hampered by stay-at-home orders and the effective shutdown of the live-music scene. But when things were bad, Romero’s twin slices of robust and enlivening power-pop was something we could turn to. The afternoon I was stood down from my full-time employment I took a walk and played ‘Honey’ on repeat until I got home. When cooped up inside at the peak of lockdown, bouncing around to the robust strum of ‘Honey’ made the encroaching walls retreat. Pardon my histrionics, but if Romero hadn’t followed up ‘Honey’ with any other material this year, I’d still call them the best thing to happen in music in 2020. With new digital single ‘Troublemaker’ officially out there as of today, the title is all but cemented.

‘Troublemaker’ has come at a good time, all things considered. Romero’s own hometown has emerged from the doldrums of isolation and, barring a couple of recent exceptions, the nation is angling towards a return to unconstrained living. ‘Troublemaker’ is imbued with a sense of rebellious freedom that suits the moment – an energy conducive to cutting loose, shedding mental fatigue and reconnecting with one’s self and those held closest. Much like ‘Honey’, ‘Troublemaker’ boasts a sun-kissed sheen courtesy of nimble guitar twanging and a pepped-up tempo thanks to the rolling percussive trot. There’s something to Romero’s sound that really thrills – it reminds me of the early crackle of excitement when I heard Royal Headache for the first time. Hooks that hook, you know? Essential to the mix is Alanna Oliver’s vocals, which instil the right amount of oomph and underlines both the power and pop in power-pop. ‘Troublemaker’ is pure gold, warm to the touch. Like ‘Honey’ and ‘Neapolitan’ before it, it’s evergreen in its listenability. It’s a fount of perpetual energy for the bone-weary masses. If 2020 becomes the year when I start doing best-of end-of-year lists, you could put money down that Romero will feature prominently.

Check out the visualiser for ‘Troublemaker’ (made by animator Josh O’Keefe) here:

‘Troublemaker’ is available digitally via Bandcamp, with proceeds from digital sales donated to Pay The Rent.