Deluxe is a far better way to spend 30 minutes than many other 2016 releases shackled with the blanket terms of “indie” and “post-punk”.
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.
Atlanta trio Omni sound less inspired by post-punk and more like an unsung group from the genre’s year zero. Released as it is in 2016, their debut, Deluxe, feels like a full stop, a rewind and a start over. It seems to say, “Remember how great this was? Good. Now let’s do something else”.
As has been well-noted in other reviews, Omni is comprised of guitarist Frankie Broyles -- who fronted Balkans and also served time in Deerhunter during the trash-garage Monomania era -- bassist Philip Frobos and drummer Billy Mitchell, both formerly of Atlanta indie crew Carnivores. While there are traces of both Balkans and Carnivores throughout Deluxe, Omni feels more advanced than both. Broyles is in fantastic form; his guitar playing literally dominates the record, with it often as high or higher in the mix than Frobos’ vocals. His style is endearingly faithful to post-punk’s more neurotic players, but still catchy and genuine enough to be unique unto itself.
This is an album which is certainly unafraid of wearing its influences on its sleeve -- or, rather, in its tracklisting. One song is called “Wire” (although it sounds more like Josef K), while another is called “Siam”, quite possibly a reference to the album Rue De Siam by the great French post-punks Marquis de Sade. “Rip It up” is uttered during opener “Afterlife”, a phrase which instantly brings to mind “Rip It Up” by Orange Juice, as well as Simon Reynolds’ post-punk tome of the same name.
All these references -- intentional or not -- risk Deluxe being shrugged off by more cynical listeners, but Omni’s songs are so loveable that doing so would mean missing out on something that is -- in its best moments -- just as joyous as anything on Orange Juice’s You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever. The aforementioned “Wire” has a disco groove that won’t quit, and a blissful chorus of “let’s drink champagne in the sand” that serves as a pleasant counter-balance to those jittery guitars. “Eyes on the Floor” has an unexpected piano outro, lovely in its simplicity. “Earrings”, “Jungle Jenny” and “Cold Vermouth” sound like back to back to back singles, each with more hooks than their brevity has any right to handle. “Wednesday Wedding”, the result of Frobos’ desire to “write a song that sounded like a mix of a Cindy Wilson-led B-52s song and the Clean”, bounces like someone in a rubber room.
I want to believe that, with Deluxe, Omni are taking us back to the source so we can look at it from another angle and create something brand new, rather than a reiteration of a few distinct elements. Even if one's resources are as lo-fi as Omni's production, a little effort and the right sort of creativity could make it happen. And even if its ambitions aren’t that grand, then at least Deluxe is a far better way to spend 30 minutes than many other 2016 releases shackled with the blanket terms “indie” and “post-punk”.