Album of the Week: Royel Otis' 'Pratts & Pain'

This week's Album of the Week offers a lot of fun.

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So what if I were to tell you that Dan Carey has just produced the debut album from a mysterious young pair of musicians, one of whom is shy to the point of routinely hiding behind a mop of shaggy hair? You would probably say – “yeah, I heard Wet Leg two years ago. Loved it. But it isn’t exactly new.”

Except this isn’t Wet Leg. Carey has discovered the Y chromosome version in Royel Otis, the Australian duo that is made up of Royel Maddell and Otis Pavlovic. Actually, it’s wrong to say that Carey discovered them. Royel Otis has been around for about five years, releasing several EPs during the pandemic to a small collection of ardent fans.

In the past several months, they have exploded. The lead single from the debut album, “Sofa King,” took L.A. by storm and their impromptu cover of Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s “Murder on the Dance Floor” for Triple J’s Like A Version radio spot went viral. All just in time for that debut album, Pratts & Pain, named for the London pub they would sneak off to during recording sessions.

Royel Otis has churned out a bit of fun

Suddenly, Royel Otis are selling out all their shows throughout Australia. Here in Washington, DC, where they will be this May, their show has been moved from a 250-capacity club to a grand old theater that can accommodate 850. There’s inflation for you.

I’m happy to say that Pratts & Pain – this week’s Album of the Week – justifies the excitement. Theirs is a sunny brand of Britpop – maybe a better-adjusted Joy Division. Though you can hear snippets of a dozen other bands running through their songs, at some point you come to a realization. If a band reminds you of one or two other bands, they might be derivative. If they remind you of a dozen others, all different from each other, that band may just have their own unique synthesis going on.

So you are going to hear MGMT and you are going to hear Arctic Monkeys. You might hear a little bit of Tama Impala but don’t mention it to Royel Otis. Coming up in the late teens in Australia, everyone with a synthesizer was branded as sounding like Tame Impala.

You are always going to get a healthy dose of The Cure. The Cure at their more up-tempo, that is.

Tempo is key to Royel Otis. It hits you right away on the opening track “Adored.” The song doesn’t rock as much as it bounces. But the vaguely spaced-out vocals keep it from sounding too poppy. The throbbing bass and scattered cymbal crashes take the music in odd directions at just the right moments.

They follow it with one of their most catchy tunes, “Fried Rice.” This is as close as Royel Otis comes to an anthem, channeling bits and pieces of Dexy’s Midnight Runners in the chorus. There’s the funk vibe of “Foam” and the muted jangle of “Sonic Blue” leading into a dynamic middle section.

It begins with “Heading for the Door,” a sweet little plea for a lover to remain that sneaks up on you and becomes an earworm. They follow one of their softest songs with two of their hardest rockers. “Velvet” chugs along powered by its grinding bass, and “IHYSM” (for “I hate you so much”) is about as bouncy as a song about hatred can get.

Then there is “Molly,” which could have been orchestrated by John Cale from his Velvet Underground days, and more classic pop in “Daisy Chain.”

“Sofa King,” already a hit, begins the final push, and it is followed by maybe the best single on the album, “Glory to Glory.”  Royel and Otis have identified it as their favorite track, and if you're a fan of Modest Mouse – especially the “Float On” version of Modest Mouse, it is likely to be your favorite too.

“Always to Always” is the only minor misstep on the album, and it’s not a bad song. It’s just a minor one. But the boys bring it home with a rollicking bar song, “Big Ciggie,” about as much fun as you can have in a song about people dying in conflagrations.

Lyrically, Pratts & Pain is filled with wit, mostly about failed love, The final lines of the final song tell the listener, “She died, thinking too much of ya…” Sounds tragic. But somehow Royel Otis makes it all sound like a party.

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