Souvenir review | Post-punk trio Omni pull no punches

Back from an extended period of downtime, post-punk trio Omni are pumped-up on their punchiest record yet, Souvenir.

“You were deflating for too long,” Omni’s vocalist and bassist Philip Frobos wryly croons on ‘Plastic Pyramids’, the industry lampooning track from the trio’s fourth full-length album, Souvenir. After an extended period of de-pressurising downtime – it’s been five years since they released Networker – Omni are evidently pumped and powered back up, primed with a timely memento as to why they’re one of modern post-punks’ more intriguing oddities.

There’s no significant paradigm shift on Souvenir. Fans of the band will already know what to expect. Sinewy, staccato guitar parts at the hands of one-time Deerhunter member Frankie Broyles remain Omni’s calling card, interlocking with Frobos’ mechanical basslines and droll vocal delivery throughout the album’s eleven tracks. With Chris Yonker’s rhythmic heft on drums however, the band have fortified and fine-tuned the sum of their parts with a full-time drummer for their second release on fabled record label Sub Pop.

Once bashful behind the mic, Frobos’ vocals have been brought into clearer focus by engineer Kristofer Sampson, experimenting with his range at moments, without ever veering too far from his trademark disassociated delivery. His wistful take on ‘INTL Waters’ – a track which sounds as though they’ve dissected and eccentrically reconstructed one of The Strokes’ earlier numbers – dips playfully in and out of baritone and falsetto. 

Frobos’ renewed confidence reflects the band’s intent to channel college radio rock greats like The Cure and R.E.M. on Souvenir, flirting with power-pop as much as post-punk, particularly on the likes of ‘Double Neg’ and ‘F1’. 

Inviting Automatic singer Izzy Glaudini to strut her stuff on the latter, as well as ‘Verdict’ and ‘Plastic Pyramid’, plays into their radio rock credentials, who can lay claim to being Omni’s first ever guest artist. A welcome female presence, hers and Frobos’ sultry call-and-response wrap around each other like a double helix on ‘Plastic Pyramid’ particularly, before unfurling at pace into driving, jammy instrumentation without an abrupt chicane to navigate. 

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For a band that has a penchant for twists and turns as much as M. Night Shyamalan, Omni keep their mathematical compositions tight and precise, like individual puzzles to unpick within a matter of a few minutes. “Exacto, de facto, concise, quite right”, Frobos shrugs on Souvenir’s opening salvo ‘Exacto’, with Souvenir clocking in just a few seconds over the thirty-minute mark.

Balancing complexity and restraint with meticulous seriousness, there’s no doubt that Omni are buckets of fun. Absurdist – and sometimes undecipherable – humour permeates their lyrics, depicting decaying relationships with nonchalant musings or getting mugged whilst going for a romantic stroll. They’ll inevitably draw as many comparisons to the likes of DEVO as they will Wire or Television, but given their new gawky boiler suit costumes, they’ve leaned into it.

In a sea of post-punk revivalists who aren’t at all dissimilar, on Souvenir, Omni reiterate their reputation as an outlying odd-box.

Photo credit: Gem Hale

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