The White Album (LOAF, 2009)
For: Broadcast, Stereolab, Buffalo Daughter
Byline: Debut album from this Berlin by-way-of London duo is a maniacal study in the mundane, transforming the day-to-day into something twisted and creepy, while simultaneously accessible and recognizable. Prepare to get awkward. Originally published on www.inyourspeakers.com. Used by permission from In Your Speakers, LLC.
“Domestic pop for domestic occasions.” That’s Omo’s tagline on their MySpace page. Basically, they did my job for me. I just can’t think of a better, more clever way to sum up this band’s style, so I won’t. Tennis, tea time, clothing, infomercials, appointments, deserts - all of the exciting adventures and pleasures of a modern lifestyle’s day are summed up nicely in these twelve tracks. But we all know that in reality, materialism is fundamentally two things: boring and bullshit. Fortunately, Omo knows this too, and that’s really the key to their debut record, The White Album. Like Monty Python before them, Omo both celebrates and exposes the mundane by repositioning day-to-day nouns, activities or concepts into twisted, bizarre environments with a dry, darkly humorous sensibility. The results are just as likely to draw smiles as they might confuse, disorient, or incite a suspicious nervousness.
Most of the awkwardness comes from the band’s sheer presentation as on the whole, the songwriting is really quite pleasant. Many tracks borrow sonic stylings from bands like Stereolab and Broadcast, creating micro-pop tunes from Casio keyboards and vibraphone or simplistic guitar lines and minimalist electro-beats. A lot of the album ends up sounding similar to early-aught’s J-rock bands like Buffalo Daughter - modestly fun and geeky art-pop that can double (at times) as party music.
But then there are the voices. Those creepy, creepy voices. Beret Immeg speak-sings the majority of the album, transforming her lyrics into lectures. “Her Body,” is an odd one (one of many), Immeg slowly drawling out an encyclopedic description of a bird egg’s incubation process. It comes out sounding like a kid’s educational animal program from hell. When she does sing, it’s perhaps the weirdest voice I’ve ever come across. I don’t know how she does it - that shrill operatic vibrato, ending up as a near-exact replica of the noise a theremin produces. This style helps to make “König” one of the most maniacally insane songs released this year. It’s about a king looking to set himself apart from the common royalty by studding his crown with stars (“REAL stars” - an insistent assertion of conceit and hubris) set to no discernible chord or melodic form before enters that jarring, but nonetheless stunning vocal ability. It’s one of those shake-your-head-in-disbelief moments on an album - what just happened, and why?
Meanwhile, David Muth’s voice is never a clear tone, instead always a deep baritone filtered through an über-vibrato, double-texturized effect. His delivery is a strange combination of British and German accents (this makes sense, given that the band is from Berlin/London), and reminds me a lot of that guy with the super long arms looking for the fish in the Python’sThe Meaning of Life. “Turtle Neck” takes the cake in terms of his weirdest performance, combining froggy voices with the album’s most aggressive guitar line and some beat-boxed vocal grooves.
Overall, it’s hard not to describe the album on a track-by-track basis without using the word “creepy” at least once per song (I’m not sure how this review made it this far only using it three times...), and that said, Omo definitely runs the risk of just being too much for a lot of people. But back to the band’s original description of itself: ultimately these songs are indeed “domestic.” They’re recognizable, approachable, and in that deeply diggable way, totally listenable. Let’s not forget what is truly the creepiest of all: the normal. Omo turns the mirror in on itself. It’s pop looking at pop, realizing what a hideous monster it can be, then taming the beast into something manageable. The quirky weirdness of it all ultimately ads up to a truly imaginative effort that simply demands attention be paid, and is therefore impossible to ignore - clicking play will seal your fate, but never fear. Though there’s plenty of dark moments, nothing here is really meant to scare the audience off. The band’s penchant for creeping out their listeners is as harmless as that weird kid from class who always made those strange, out-of-place comments. Don’t forget, that kid was also usually a genius.