I’ll admit to not having high expectations when I downloaded Omega, an album from a band billed as “an evolution of the classic 90’s boy band for the modern ear.” But even a boy band can surprise, particularly when said band’s album packs as many twists and turns as this one. There’s the requisite radio single in “Put Your Hands Up,” which encourages all of us with inner nerds to put our hands up and pray for the day we can “turn the other cheek when [we’re] their boss,” but that thankfully comes at the end of the album. “Carmen” fares much better, as the band channels all the Bowling for Soup they can handle as they swoon over a beautiful latin grocer who quite likely remains out of their league to this day. Get that to radio and maybe we’ll be hearing these guys get the kind of airplay formerly reserved for songs called “Hey There, Delilah.”
But don’t overlook the album’s deeper tracks. “”They All Fall Down”, “Three Times” and “Gravity” showcase XY Unlimited’s lyrical range, and all three tracks also highlight their greatest advantage — these guys can SING! The harmonies on this album would make Ben Folds nod in approval (and I’m talking Reinhold Messner-era Folds) and seem perfectly tailored to a generation which made Glee the most popular pop ensemble ever. Everything culminates in a Donny Darko fanboy’s wet dream, as the band takes on “Mad World” in its Gary Jules incarnation, stripping it down to bare voices and autotune, creating a hybrid which is impeccably arranged and would give Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” a run for its money.
While this isn’t an album which is going to blow your mind and turn the sanest of listeners into mad XY Unlimited groupies, it is a solidly crafted pop album which is more than the sum of any boy band parts. Billing this band as such is a limitation they don’t deserve. Call it pop-punk with the heart of Death Cab for Cutie and the arrangements of Ben Folds, and give Omega the fair shake it deserves. Maybe you’ll even decide to award it “guilty pleasure” status as you listen to their voices swell.