If you’ve ever heard something from the late 80s or early 90s and can’t quite put your finger on the feel of the era, Ed Roman has an album for you. On the cleverly titled Red Omen, Roman mixes the styles of Barenaked Ladies, Paul Simon, and even a touch of July Talk, along with metal and some gypsy jazz for an album with more genre hopping than a Weird Al record, that’s only funny until it’s impressive.
Starting with a knowing laugh, the album opens on the bright and hopeful “Red Omen” full of Graceland funk and life. The solo pulls the grinning feeling to a peak, and carries the song to its final choruses. With vocables and vicious drum section Roman brings the thought-provoking “Tough Cookie” with a sense of musicality that moots any of the cheesy moments it carries with it.
With howls “I Wish The Wolfman Was Back” goes into a horror infused groove, feeling more like an homage to “The Hilarious House of Frightenstein” than the legendary DJ. Bass is purring on “I Am Love” bringing a satisfying tone to a slightly repetitive jam track with a great positive message.
The swinging duet of “The Way She Goes” takes the album on a pleasantly relaxed detour, bouncing on piano and guitar for a delightfully harmonious break. The rush and echo of “Think I’m Just A Fool” has a powerful melodic sensibility along with its unique sonic quality. The addition of strings and the overall shift in tone make this a stand out, made even better by some of the strongest and boldest writing on the record.
“Time Itself” goes into slow-build with Roman taking his vocal rhythms to new heights. The track’s acceleration is a fun shift that builds excitement to the song’s climax that sonically delivers. Roman decides to switch to a metal sound strangely on “Clone The Sheep” working in hefty cries of “ONE, ONE, ONE” in this intense track. While it’s cool to see him stretching his legs on this 80s inspired track it does feel notably out of place.
The European gypsy sounds of “ETA” are a surprisingly great sounding turn, with great harmonies and the hooks needed for the genre while putting a spin that is uniquely, for the sake of wordplay, Roman-y. “Nothing More To Say” ends up feeling very descriptive pulling in a July Talk level of growl with some fun alt-folk darkness, that ultimately doesn’t explore beyond its groove.
Returning to the soft rock “Lay One Down” is an intimate guitar and vocals track with Roman giving an earnest track that feels a lot closer to heart after a handful of interesting genre moves. In his more comfortable genres the moves to play with the writing feel a lot more exciting as the level of comfort to do so is audible. “I Wanna Be Free” is the album’s peak 90s feeling, switching feels frantically from a funk to vocoder-infused opera. The break downs are a cool departure and there’s a true sense of fun when the guitar solo rips in and the band plays around more loosely.