The best explanation for a mediocre album by a talented band is usually the most obvious: The great songs just aren’t there. And while it would be tempting to parse every little change between Minus The Bear’s Omni and the four likeable albums that preceded it, the only relevant difference is that the hooks and melodies don’t click on Omni the way they clicked before. The album is the band’s most focused shot at slick, accessible prog-pop, and the ingredients are right: Beat shifts and fractured rhythm formations make for complex song structures that keep things interesting, without being so jarringly radical as to lose the average listener. Lots of deep bass and pounding, funky synths feel like a valiant effort to provoke dancing. Jake Snyder’s buffed-smooth vocals glide over a bunch of metaphors and stories about sex. The record mixes in a wide variety of instrumentation and styles, but isn’t so experimental as to lack cohesion. In sum, it should work. But it doesn’t. The pop melodies just don’t pop, and there’s none of the hypnotizing atmosphere that made previous albums so captivating. The spacey, psychedelic flourishes and harmonies have been ditched in favor of blandly inoffensive solos and big, arena-rock choruses. And there’d be nothing wrong with any of this if the songs were stronger.
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