Omni’s 2019 album ‘Networker’ was a big hit in these quarters. Their tongue in cheek lyricism and Television inspired Post Punk received a fair whack of stereo time. When band members go solo it reveals their contribution to the collective sound. So what of Philip Frobos? The Omni frontman makes half of their sound so you’d be forgiven for expecting ‘Vague Enough To Satisfy’ to sound familiar.
When we heard Frobos was releasing a solo album, via Upset The Rhythm, our ears pricked up.
How would he fit into a label known for being perhaps more esoteric than his band’s efforts? Well… he embraced his weirder side! ‘Vague Enough To Satisfy’ sounds slightly like someone going slowly out of their mind.
The sound is paired down and crooked from the off. The turns of lyrical phrase are tongue in cheek, as expected. However, in this setting, they feel more schmultzy than within Omni’s choppy post punk. Frobos retains his vocal style and some of the rhythmic structures expected. The drums and guitar, however, are further apart. The drums throughout are electronic keyboard beats ( the opening “Vague Theme” opting for cheesy bossanova). It evokes the image of Frobos sitting on a sun lounger by a swimming pool, cocktail in hand… in 8-bit. His guitar stylings are, at times, almost like a caricature of his bandmate Frankie Broyles’, only they’re all wonky, less intricate and far more rough around the edges.
At times the album gives the impression that these are pre-polished sketches for Omni songs. This is particularly the case on “Vacant Street”. Certainly, it’s more intimate and bares Frobos’ full personality. This is looser, more relaxed and points towards Frobos being someone who definitely doesn’t take himself too seriously. If we didn’t know that already.
The album is intersected by three (relatively) lengthy instrumentals.
The Casio-jazz-beat-led “Pool Disturbance” is like a Fisher Price Twin Peaks soundtrack song with its question mark guitar lines and tremolo vibes. This leads me to mention, of course, that this is indeed a soundtrack… to his debut novel. The bass, organ keys and drums combo of “Inflatable Flamingo” very much sounds like an interlude. “Vague End Credits” completes the trio, slowly evolving and shifting between melodies just as it seems like it’s settling, with a familiar recurring motif.
The kooky “No Packages Today” offers up stop start sillyness, while the off-key “Through With Buzz” offers up minimally messy guitar and keys that seem to be in a competition as to which can be the most ridiculous.
Given the album is the companion piece to a novel it no doubt requires reading the book to fully appreciate the character Frobos is essentially playing here.
On it’s own it stands alone in it’s oddness. It circulates a few Casio beats. The waltz of “Never Noticed” has a lo-fi late 60s Beatles peculiarity to it. “Saturn Return” plods along and trips up over itself as rhythms intersect and kind of satisfyingly don’t quite catchy the jazz beat.
The guitar on “Pathetic” has that trebly George Harrison kind of sound while it’s rhythmically fiddly. It kind of has a Beefheart plays The Beatles quality in places but more than anything feels like Frobos indulging his silly side. However, he plays it far more straight on “Singer Not The Song”, a cute ballad with a Jonathan Richman worthy melody. It’s probably the most memorable song on this wonderfully disjointed, yet understated, kook-fest.
Having given it a few listens ‘Vague Enough To Satisfy” is a bit of a grower. Aesthetically it shares a lot in common with labelmates Naked Roommate, only it’s not as slick. A peculiar lo-fi curveball that intrigues us to seek the book and find out what this is all about.
‘Vague Enough To Satisfy’ is out this Friday 1st October via Upset The Rhythm.
You may enjoy this if you like: Omni, Naked Roommate