Review Summary: Minus the FlairOmni
is the album every Minus the Bear fan should
love. It takes all the best elements from each of their earlier albums and mixes them into one rather nice sounding new one. Want that effortlessly cool, screwed-that-model-in-the-bathroom-backstage-no-biggie vibe you fell in love with from Highly Refined Pirates
? It's here. Miss that more focused, more driven indie sound that Menos El Oso
provided, with its poppier hooks and cleaner production? Got that too. Or maybe you're more of a fan of the forward-thinking prog rock of Planet of Ice
, where silly song titles were replaced with intelligent songwriting and the band really began to show what they were capable of? Look no further, Omni's
got it. And yet it also sounds different, fresh; inviting and accessible for newcomers to the band. Perfect, no?
Not quite. Though it is fair to say the band have collected the best bits from their discography and given them a new home in Omni
, each of those elements seem half-baked here; suffocated and with a frustrating lack of bite. Lyrically, the Highly Refined Pirates
vibe of the record seems like a strained attempt to dig up their roots and appear cool and sexually superior (to you) again, and the exciting progressive indie from Planet of Ice
is few and far between, rarely given the room to flourish when it does appear. The guitars of Knudson and co. take a back seat to the synth in many of the tracks here, creating a sound that's perfect for the summer ahead, but whether they'll last much longer is hard to say. One of the major criticisms I hear when introducing people to the band is "all the songs sound the same", and, while the ten tracks here can switch from sexy to mature, dark to funky, and the differences make themselves further known with extended listening, the heavy reliance on the synth does, unfortunately, keep that complaint intact.
is still a very solid record. The grooves on this record are dangerously sexual, and the hooks, though they may take their time to really dig in, are amongst the most infectious the band have put out. There are signs, still, of new ventures; 'Secret Country' is Minus the Bear heavier than they've ever been, with a chugging guitar serving as a dense backdrop for some furious tapping, sweat-soaked lyrics and Snider's dark delivery of an impeccable hook in “We forget where we are.” Single 'My Time' also sees the band experimenting with the omnichord, and it's hard to deny that the song has to be one of the catchiest things released this year. The one-two reverse of 'Into The Mirror'/'Animal Backwards', while not wholly successful, proves the band are still trying new things, whilst 'Dayglow Vista Road' and 'Summer Angel' are evidence that the band are still capable of writing solid pop songs, with their memorable choruses and nostalgic lyrics.
Yet, for the most part, the songs here don't charm; they don't make your hair stand on end at the ferocious yet effortless tapping orgy inside a pounding chorus, or force a cheeky, jealous smirk at the idea of chasing girls in yachts while hammered. So what are we left with? Omni
is Minus the Bear through and through in everything but two vitally important elements that make the band who they are. Their flair, and their drive to improve. While not a classic album, Planet of Ice
was a very convincing statement from the band that they would be capable of one day producing such a thing. Yet, with Omni
, they seem to have retracted that statement. I'm not sure if Omni
is a band short of confidence or belief in their massive talent, or simply a sidestep for the band to try a few new things while also allowing their old sound to catch up with them, but one thing it certainly isn't is a band at the top of their game. And that's a strange place to be for one of today's most consistent bands.