Omni Bring Old-School Post-Punk to the Modern World with 'Networker'
With a move to a Sub Pop Records, Atlanta post-punkers Omni go for a more understated, stripped down affair on their third album, Networker.
1 November 2019
Networker sounds like an album you've heard a million times before. That isn't to say that the Atlanta duo of Philip Frobos (bass and vocals) and Frankie Broyles (guitar, drums, and keyboards) are overly derivative. Sure, they've taken the late '70s/early '80s post-punk template perfected by the likes of Television, Gang of Four, and Wire and run with it. But they've managed to pull off the difficult trick of dragging an older, established subgenre into the current musical climate skillfully and effectively.
A lot of this has to do with musical skills. The style is post-punk, but there's an intricate sense of musicianship at work that occasionally veers towards jazzier realms and even hints of progressive rock (although this really only comes up in the form of odd time signatures). Their move from Trouble in Mind Records – responsible for releasing their first two albums, Deluxe (2016) and Multi-task (2017) – to Sub Pop seems to have clearly energized the duo, as the meticulous nature of the compositions and arrangements becomes apparent from the very start.
Broyles' slashing guitar chords on "Sincerely Yours" are paired up nicely with spidery licks inspired by "Marquee Moon". Meanwhile, the lyrics bemoan the ennui of a 9-to-5 job. "Drive you to work in the morning / Although I don't wanna leave you there / It's quite disconcerting / I'm aware we're due to pay our share."
Most of the lyrics on Networker – true to its title – involve online lives and social media. Over a slinky shuffle beat, "Skeleton Key" addresses these contemporary issues. "If you don't like what you see," Frobos sings, "The presentation of me / The pretty face on the screen / Scroll on by and don't be lingering." On the tense, urgent "Present Tense", the lyrics speak of being "connected, lounging in the future", while light keyboard touches provide a welcome texture. There's even a playful side to the album, as "Blunt Force" fires off a jazzy tempo that sounds unusual yet provocative amongst the atonal guitars.
Networker comes off as a very compact, low-key, and admirably cohesive work. The songs are tied together in a refreshingly consistent manner, despite numerous subtle shifts in tone and genre. "Underage" begins as a lighthearted shuffle that switches effortlessly to a bluesier mode as Broyles indulges in some highly enjoyable guitar licks that veer more towards classic rock than post-punk.
Omni is a band that can, on the surface, be easily pigeonholed by lazy listeners who are initially sucked into their twitchy, Talking Heads / Parquet Courts vibe. But deep, repeated listens will bear out the sounds of a band that enjoys delving into rich lyrical subject matter while keeping musical arrangements layered and unpredictable.