Album Review: Cullen Omori - The Diet

Words by Maddy Howell

Having been left downtrodden by life's many obstacles, ex-Smith Westerns frontman Cullen Omori embarked upon his solo career with a rather rocky start. With the separation of his high school band, a broken down tour bus, a theft from the replacement vehicle and a subsequent tour cancellation, his 2016 debut solo release, 'New Misery', saw the negative emotions of Omori's turbulent experiences begin to seep their way into his musical output.

Where Omori's debut record presented the songwriter somewhat indulging in his negative feelings, his follow-up full-length record 'The Diet' is an attempt to purge the sadness, or at least create something a little more positive within its presence. Though Omori was never fully immersed in a negative headspace on his first solo venture, the darkness could still be felt lingering even in the record's brightest moments. 'The Diet' appears to be a rejuvenated and almost reborn version of the musician's former self, as despite it's intense and sometimes fragile honesty, positive emotions seem to be pushed straight to the forefront.

Opening on the sun-kissed, exuberant Four Years, the tone of the album is set perfectly, with the jangly guitars providing the perfect backdrop for Omori's lustrous vocal melodies. Whilst much of Omori's work has become known for taking a bittersweet styled approach, love is a major topic of discussion throughout the duration of 'The Diet', in all it's many forms and strengths. A Real You proclaims a love for the simple side of life, All By Yourself is a projection of a love for lost things, whilst Natural Woman verges on a sickly sweet admission of love. Though the love song formula is often seen as a tired trope, Omori offers a refreshed outlook on the concept, injecting impressive amounts of personality and charm into his many discussions on just what the simple idea of love can encompass.

The theme of love becomes even more intense on the infectious Happiness Reigns, written by Omori not just about, but alongside his current girlfriend. With unconventional songwriting strategies come intriguing results, with the honesty of both parties creating an intense and delicate vulnerability, underpinned by lyrics such as "Darling, there’s no one like you / Your presence and your love is like a perfume". Moments such as this add to the humanity of the record, with Omori finally seeming in a place of comfort and contentment with both his musical and personal lives.

At its core, 'The Diet' is a collection of wonderfully crafted pop songs, littered with 1970s rock influence, indie rock energy and even slight glimpses of Omori's glam-pop past on the distorted riffs of Quiet Girl. Though there is nothing overly complex about the songwriting and the distinct focus on love songs may seem off-putting to some, there's a soulful honesty to Omori's work, offering much more depth than may be apparent on the surface.

Though his latest release presents Omori recapturing the magic of his former self, the glam-rock stardom of his past has become little more than a hazy memory in his musical style, and that is undoubtedly a positive. With his latest release, Omori has begun to thrive within the solo field, displaying his flair as both an expressive songwriter and an expertly talented musician. 'The Diet' definitively presents the musician feeling a little more comfortable in his own vivacious skin, resulting in the most polished and promising release of his eclectic musical journey thus far.