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After a jump to Sub Pop, Omni return with their most precise, most melodic, and best-sounding album yet. Like their first two, Networker was recorded in rural Georgia with Nathaniel Higgins and the sound is very similar. Frankie Broyles' guitar is a slashing, twisted ball of nerves, his drumming is spare and punchy, Philip Frobos' basslines are jabbing and melodic, and his vocals are cheerfully monotone and just barely poke their head out of the mix. What's different this time is everything is a little more jagged, the guitars have more restraint, and there are hints of avant-garde jazz and Television throughout. One of the album's better songs, "Courtesy Call," is a good example of how things have been altered. While at its core, it's still the kind of jumpy post-punk the band mastered earlier, here there are little Verlaine-esque guitar filigrees dotting the arrangement, a couple of sustained chords that hang in the air like they were played on piano, some actual piano providing some drama and a majestic melody that Frobos almost croons. It makes for a small sonic upgrade that moves the band forward a bit without losing any of their strengths along the way. The rest of the album follows that plan perfectly; balancing moments of arty brilliance with hooky, almost pop that really pops thanks to the tighter sound and tenser arrangements. Tracks like "Sincerely Yours" and "Flat Earth" have extremely sticky hooks and choruses that lend themselves to humming long after the album stops spinning, "Skeleton Key" has a little bit of Thin Lizzy-ish strut, and "Moat" has the squirmy twists and turns of an early Feelies classic. Their new approach lends itself well to the quieter songs, too; "Genuine Person" has a gentleness to the sound and melody not heard on an Omni record before, and the title track's keys and soft chord changes show that the band don't have to be nervy and angular to impress. They drop these moments of calm in among the energetic numbers just often enough to give the record some breathing room and make it their most well-rounded listening experience yet. It's also the record where the promise of their first two efforts comes to fruition. Those albums were undeniably good and filled with songs that bobbed and weaved like a champion lightweight boxer; on Networker, they land blows like a middleweight. Punching with more focus and power, by the time the last note fades they emerge from the ring with the post-punk revival title belt slung around their triumphant shoulders.

Track Listing

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