Release Date: Jul 8, 2016
Record label: Trouble in Mind
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Garage Punk, Indie Rock
Sometimes old men talk about rock ’n’ roll still, usually about whether it’s still worth talking about at all. The other day one of my fellow old men, a dad, complained about how there doesn’t seem to be any legit 21st century rock music, how even the good stuff is pretty much just nostalgia, hat tips and retro vibes. We weren’t talking about Omni, but he’d maybe put ‘em in that pile, because they play guitars and focus on rhythm and melody and record everything a little hot and fuzzy.
It's no shock that a band made up of former members of Deerhunter and Carnivores would be good, since both those bands are. It's more of a shock just how good Omni is. With ex-Deerhunter guitarist Frankie Broyles and ex-Carnivores bassist/vocalist Philip Frobos writing a batch of songs that combine the best aspects of brainy, hooky bands like Josef K, Television, and Magazine, then recording them with another ex-Carnivore, Billy Mitchell, on drums, Omni's Deluxe is a stunning debut.
What a lovely combination of things this Atlanta trio’s debut album is: a dash of starry-eyed retro-futurism, a whole lot of artfully misshapen post-punk invention, and perhaps something of a harking back to a lost ideal of left-of-the-dial college rock. The key elements are drummer Billy Mitchell’s straight-backed rhythms, subject to constant interruption by fluttery, hopscotch syncopations; Frankie Broyles’s guitar lines, which build from infernally catchy single-string twangs to gorgeous, arpeggiated fountains, with little rainbows of melody gleaming through the spray; the complementary boom and bump of Philip Frobos’s bass, and his faintly bizarro vocals (perhaps somewhere on the Jonathan Richman/Feelies/Embarrassment axis: “You have such nice glassware / Was I the first to stare / At your earring chandeliers / I want to grab on and swing”). This is not herky-jerky art-rock of the monochromatic, nervous-itch kind, but something more coloured-in, packed with fantastic choruses and blissful wigouts.
At this point in time, the post-punk toolbox has been reopened so man times that it’s a miracle its hinges haven’t broken off yet. Assigning any band the label has lost nearly as much meaning as describing something as “indie rock”. Virtually any band with a guitarist whose playing could be considered “angular” risks being deemed post-punk inspired.
It’d be too much to expect a marked post-punk reinvention considering the genre has turned itself inside-out far too many times to even keep count. But it’s always a welcome surprise when it sounds, well, weirder, and Omni deliver that in spades on their debut effort, Deluxe. The Atlanta trio writes arty post-punk songs that have something of an unpleasant curiosity, fiercely inaccessible yet armed with a copious amount of hooks.
Sprightly lo-fi pop of indeterminable vintage – Deluxe could have been recorded in 1981 just as much as 2016 – there’s little that’s revolutionary to the Atlanta trio’s debut, but it does tick plenty of other boxes. Immediate and uninhibited, this is a record full of oddly pleasing angles – it’s perhaps what the Strokes would sound like if they ditched their cloying slickness and music as marketing shtick. The rhythm section never tries too hard, Philip Frobos’ vocals recline across the ten tracks with languid urgency, but it’s former Deerstalker guitarist Frankie Boyles who steals the show, forming art rock cadences on Eyes on the Floor and the dancey grind of Siam, and drenching Wire in so much jangly guitar you’d expect him to be signed to Postcard Records.