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The White Album Ben Graham , September 24th, 2009 10:33

London/Berlin duo OMO release their cheekily-named debut album a mere week-and-a-half after the most hyped/anticipated reissue campaign of the decade. One wonders how many extra sales they'll gain from misguided punters searching for the remaster of The Beatles' eponymous 1968 double LP under its more familiar, colloquial title, and not realising that they've accidentally purchased a contemporary collection of lo-fi electronica and understated post-punk guitars instead. And can it really be coincidental that OMO is but one letter away from the surname of the arch-nemesis of conservative Beatles fans, the Fluxus artist and performer who first introduced mainstream pop to the avant-garde?

Such situationist tactics would seem entirely likely from this none-more-art school outfit, consisting of deadpan vocalist Berit Immig (of the equally sardonic The Chap), and long-term collaborator David Muth. OMO was of course a detergent powder hugely popular with post-war British housewives, that promised to 'add brightness to your whites.' Those same housewives would also supposedly leave a box of OMO on the window ledge for the attention of whichever visiting tradesperson they were having it away with on the side, the meaningless three-letter brand name standing in this case for 'Old Man Out.'

Describing their music as "Domestic Pop for Domestic Occasions," OMO the band deliberately evoke this stereotype world of pre-Beatles (them again) female household drudgery: insecurely middle-class and prematurely middle-aged, obsessed with body image and the latest consumer gadgets, boredom and frustration dulled by prescription pills and daytime drinking, trash TV and gossipy magazines. How very different to 21st Century Britain, eh?

Whether it's the sledgehammer beats and wry observations of 'Live Show,' in which Sylvia Plath goes down the Rhythm Factory (possibly), or the gently violated, Raymond Scott lounge muzak of 'ROV,' there's an airless, unsettling queasiness to this music, as though the world were slowly sliding away down a smooth glass surface. There are obvious precedents: 'Her Body,' could be post-punk Peel favourites And The Native Hipsters, while 'Fish in the Tin' sounds like an updated Flying Lizards. But it's the desperate sadness behind the quirkiness that gives OMO depth and colour, as on the single, 'Oversized,' where the spoken chorus ("Will you be surprised when I'm oversized?") is set against the odd, resigned melancholy of the verses. If this is comedy, then it's as much Beckett as Bennett, the combination of pathos and triviality nailing the existential headfuck of modern life where the self-dramatising likes of Radiohead often overshoot.

OMO: brighter beats for tomorrow's tunes. Accept no substitutes.