Album of the Day: Omni, “Networker”

On their first two albums, the Atlanta post-punk group Omni harnessed jerky guitars, plucky bass, and crackling drums to convey a sense of unease. On Networker, their first release for Sub Pop, the group continues to explore the malaise of modern living, but this time, they’ve swapped jittery post-punk for full-bodied rock arrangements. As a result, the anxiety that permeates their prickly songs is mostly felt in their perceptive—and often downright terrifying—lyrics.

Throughout Networker, Omni open windows into a series of morbid scenarios. “Courtesy Call” has the violence and bleak humor of a Tarantino film: a school teacher gets burned alive by their students, leaving behind only the keys to their SUV. (“The reason why the person is not getting a courtesy call is that they’re dead,” guitarist Frankie Broyles deadpanned in a recent interview). “Sincerely Yours” offers an equally eerie, but less dramatic, account of the soul-sucking nature of corporate employment (“At happy hours we talk and talk / Are you nervous for your career?”), recalling The National at their most class-conscious. Later, “Flat Earth” presents a contemporary take on the old adage “ignorance is bliss,” complete with an excess of definitely-not-organic blue cocktails.

These hair-raising narratives take place against a backdrop of grand rock and roll. “Skeleton Key,” for instance, channels the Southern-fried exuberance of Big Star, and the loopy “Underage” evokes Stephen Malkmus at his most whimsical. On the subdued title track, perhaps the album’s biggest surprise (and delight), a vast array of smoldering synths and Television-style riffs create a cozy backdrop for the devastating central lyric at the album’s core: “Is this digital you?” Despite the substantial dose of existential dread coursing through Networker, Omni can’t help but sound like they’re enjoying themselves—which, in turn, makes their grim outlook all the more gripping.

-Max Savage Levenson

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