Enamored guitars that don’t push the bar
Omni are set to release the third LP of their career, Networkers, and it’s, by all means, the synthesis of enamored guitar playing. Guitars support the overall structure of the tracks, and more so, become points from which the band can improvise and run their vocals. It’s an interesting approach to writing, and something we don’t see too regularly these days, so it’s refreshing to hear it work so well.
“Courtesy Call” is maybe the best example of its success – the track weaves its way between the pure riffs and the chippy phrasing, leaning towards moments of total submersion for the band. Maybe the best way to describe it is as itchy, almost as if Omni are putting their guitaring skills to practice, running scales and finicky melodies to the absolute maximum. “Moat” follows on in the same way, and the result is truly nuanced – a sound halfway between the Comedown Machine era of The Strokes and the unremitting energy of Madness. It’s easier to hear that manic nature in tracks like “Present Tense” or “Skeleton Key,” and Networkers achieves versatility because of this blend. Yet somehow, their style still can’t be placed.
Their production is overly feverish, and the result is tiring. It’s hard to get lost in the tracks or establish any kind of emotional affliction for them because they’re restless and unstructured. They sell the subtlety, and most of the time the downfalls to their approach go unnoticed, but taking a step away from the individual tracks and looking at the album as one, whole creation, reveals more than what we may think. It reveals just how fractured the sequencing is and how stunted the progression of the record is from start to finish. By the middle section of the LP, there’s no anticipation left, no rise and fall, and unfortunately, no serious substance.
“Blunt Force” does well to break the formula, and not because it sounds or feels any different to the preceding songs, but because it takes on a quality of deliberation. The band isn’t just exercising the extent of their strings on this one, and it works better because of that.
Vocally going, Philip Frobos knows the sound he wants to achieve – a muffled affectation that’s entirely understated. The question though, is whether or not that’s entirely genuine? The overriding feeling is that his vocal delivery doesn’t come as naturally as he hopes to portray, and so it’s hard to find a fondness for the lyrics or the voice. Take an artist like Jeff Buckley, who innately recreates a similar style to Frobos when singing, but only because the natural dynamic of his voice takes him there. Frobos’ voice has no dynamic, and it’s unfortunately uninteresting.
The classic rock riffs of “Sincerely Yours” and the bluesy swag of “Underage” are only small elements of the tracks, though they actually go a long way to revive the record and prove vital to keeping it alive. Still, the saddest about all this is the fact that three LPs down the line, Omni don’t seem to be pushing themselves in any way. They have a confident stylistic identity, and it’s totally prominent across the record. They have a way of simply and poignantly centralizing their guitars in a way that few bands of their genre do so well, but just because they’ve found a unique hook, it’s not a given that they’ve perfected it. This style still needs development, and their only salvation is in the potential behind their strengths.