Ogre You Asshole’s “Homely” practically begs to be considered as the band’s artistic leap forward. The band has traded in the guitar-centric, 1990s-indie sound of its previous releases for a slower-moving vibe featuring an abundance of bongos and saxophone. It’s a challenging LP to dive into: the catchy immediacy of the group’s past is replaced by random vocal samples and soft-rock signifiers. Yet Ogre’s shift in sonic direction on “Homely” comes off like giving a flophouse a fresh coat of paint — new sounds trying to distract from plodding, go-nowhere songs.
The trio (a quartet before bassist Hiraide Norihito left the band last month) stretch a fair share of these tracks into the five- and six-minute range, a strange decision seeing as Ogre doesn’t do anything interesting with the added time. The group isn’t new to long-playing songs — it has had plenty of them over the years, and for the most part they’ve built to some sort of payoff. Now, Ogre makes aimless faux-psychedelica (“Rope”) and drawn-out slow burners (from the fifth track till the end). Only on “Fensu no Aru Le” does it hit a sun-breaking-through-the-dark climax, making it a highlight.
Ogre also used to surround the longer tracks with catchy blasts of Modest Mouse/Built to Spill-esque indie rock. Those aren’t present on “Homely,” the group’s new sonic wrinkle being to glop saxophone and/or bongos on the long tracks. This serves only as spectacle, Ogre hinting at “musical growth” via new sounds when the songs underneath show regression. Even worse, 2011 has featured so many great examples of saxophone playing that its use on “Homely” comes off as smooth jazz. Whereas some artists created worlds out of its noise (Destroyer, Colin Stetson) and others turned it into a poltergeist (Miila and the Geeks), Ogre mostly turns to the saxophone as wallpaper. The brief sax solo in Lady Gaga’s “The Edge Of Glory” carries more catharsis and passion than this album in whole. “Homely” demonstrates that sticking with what you know isn’t always a bad move.
Ogre You Asshole is currently on tour and will play Nakimi Junction in Hiroshima on Sept. 17 (6 p.m.; ¥3,500;  249-3571); and Drum Be-1 in Fukuoka on Sept. 18 (6 p.m.; ¥3,500;  712-4221). For more tour dates, visit www.ogreyouasshole.com.