Omni finds Minus the Bear with a new label (Dangerbird Records, which is cool) and a new sound (which is bad; more on that later). This time out, the group embraces their inner Boz Scaggs, blending blue-eyed soul with their own prog/dance/rock style to form something pretty unsatisfying. A major pendulum swing from the stellar Planet of Ice, Omni comes off limp and lame. For a group that’s dropped plenty of groovers over the years, one would think moving into a more danceable direction would be a welcome change. It ain’t.
As an MtB album, Omni is neither a rocker nor a mover. Lead guitarist Dave Knudson still gets in some neat-o tricks and keyboardist Alex Rose sounds damn fine here, but the songs are often middling. There are some decent ideas, like on the ’80s synth jam “My Time,” an opening track that announces right away that the band is exploring a new introduction. “Secret Country” has a gnarly bridge. But these moments won’t make nearly as big of an impression as the hammy lyrics. Frontman Jake Snider keeps dropping stupid come-ons like “I’m gonna steal you like a pearl” (“The Thief”) and “I don’t know you that well / But I like your energy” (“Animal Backwards”). Dude needs to get slapped. Hard.
The new sound is going to turn off a lot of kids. Cokeheads can still do coke while listening to MtB, but non-douchebags looking for the fun, pop-tastic comforts of “Pachuca Sunrise” or the epic rocking of “Lotus” are going to be disappointed. Personally, I’m not opposed to the group’s new direction – I love Scaggs and Hall & Oates – but MtB can’t quite integrate the soul style, resulting in something more akin to Maroon 5’s white guy faux-funk, albeit played by the guys who wrote Menos el Oso. Maybe, in time, the group will indeed drop its own Silk Degrees. Minus the Bear’s previous output demands I call this one more of a faux pas than a failure, but either way, it’s still a pretty crappy album from an otherwise pretty good band.