Oh No! Oh My!
Oh No! Oh My!
here are the great bands of the past, there are bands that put your faith back in the future, and there are the nascent Brooklynish indie bands whose skilful but unfocused jostles between tomorrow and yesteryear make you certain the present doesn’t have a mind of its own. In the case of Oh No! Oh My!, “ish” is Nashville, where two young men with a heritage of home schooling fought for the right to disseminate their music by self-releasing a debut that is equal parts lovely and shoddy.
The album’s opener, “Skip the Foreplay,” is unbearably Shins-y, to the point that I stopped listening and didn’t go back for an entire day. But the next day I learned that within the same song, ONOM leave the playground and enter Low territory with a dark electric guitar—only to ice it with store-bought falsetto “la la la”’s a moment later. This is essentially a premonition of impending diabetes, or at the very least, a sugar crash. So I went away for a few more hours. When I returned, I realized that the blipping bass and see-sawing keyboard melody of track two, “I Don’t Have a Sister,” is only confirmation of the album’s cloying tendencies. “Sister” is a slice of cutesy indie pop that’s frustratingly simplistic, and, as is often the case on this album, only gets interesting in the last thirty seconds, when the guitar introduces a mirroring harmony.
The total word count of ONOM is probably 75—considerably low for all the narratives about an Audrey Hepburn look-alike, the diffident Lisa from “Lisa Make Love (It’s OK),” and other sweeping, deceptively insightful adages about women. The melodies are negligible, and don’t match up to the words’ freshness, like on the album’s last track, which is a throwback to “All You Need Is Love,” but instead keeps repeating the line, “Women are born in love.” Perhaps as insightful as the Beatles’ lines were forty years ago, they’re doomed to skulk in their wake, and lack the support of fully developed music.
The riveting opening moments of “I Love You All the Time” are a break from all the repetitive dross. Twenty seconds of a tinselly beat and dark electric piano is the only time this album’s pulse is detectable. Which isn’t to say the only thing that can breathe life into indie pop is a computerized, manic beat, but it’s rare that ONOM’s real instruments don’t suffer from anemia of the imagination and actually relate to each other (the flute, recorder, guitar, and glockenspiel on “The Backseat” relate exceedingly well.)
After the killer intro of “I Love You,” there’s a sudden, jarring drone of acoustic guitar strums and stultifying rhymed lyrics (“I love you all the time / Except when you are mine”). This is a soundbite of everything wrong with the album. It’s all so downright tongue-in-cheek and happy-go-lucky. The guitar hits the ball into another, lamer subgenre’s court, only to hit it back for a brief segment of sticky beats and pedaling keyboards at the song’s end. Looking on the bright side (“this band will one day be good”), you can only imagine this antithetical playoff of genres as the singer’s embattled conscience: his girl’s stealing his dough, getting belligerently drunk, and altogether losing his interest just by being his.
Eventually he’ll realize that this girl problem—and that of his band’s direction—has to be solved with more than a conclusive, tepid “ah whoa-oh.” The frenetic keyboards at least know where they’re going. Let’s hope the band follows.