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Friday, 28 November 2008

Menomena - Friend and Foe

Firstly i have to say that this is definitely the most fascinating album artwork i've ever seen. The red and yellow parts of the cover both change and twisting the Cd in its case will change the eyes of the characters to display amusing expressions of shock as they look out at you. The album cover is almost as intruiging as the band itself.
Menomena are an experimental rock band from Portland, USA, who share lead vocals and, through a wide variety of conventional instruments, create indie with elements of jazz, rock, and electronica to name but a few. Comparisons can easily be drawn to Tv On The Radio, however Menomena ooze originality and show off a very distinctive style despite the changes of vocals from track to track. Friend and Foe is the follow up to the independently released first album I Am The Fun Blame Monster! (an anagram of The First Menomena Album) of 2003, and a clear progression in terms of both recording quality and tightness can be seen.
One of the distinguishing and most interesting features of Friend and Foe is its prominent experimental drumming, capable of completely changing the feel of their songs in one strategically placed rhythm change and added bass line. Evil Bee is a perfect example of this. This track begins as a slow, disturbingly unbalanced acoustic build up to be converted by the entry of an alto sax, bass and simple drum line into a driving funk rock song, before combining the two for a beautifully woven outro.
Wet and Rusting is the highlight of the album. Beginning with a synthesizer, and mildly unnerving high pitched lyrics, the song develops into a disturbing combination of off beat, almost wrong-sounding acoustic strums and reverbial, distant sounding piano lines (both Menomena trademarks). The bullet-like drums in the chorus drive the song with such force that rather than simply holding the song together they create a completely new element to the music. Concentrating solely on the drumming in Menomena songs is something quite easy to become accustomed to.
With any distinctive sound there comes the responsibility to keep it both interesting and fresh simultaneously. Menomena partially succeed however the album does trail off nearing the end, and the song Boyscout'n, the second longest album track, is really quite terrible with persistent jabs of the alto sax and a piercing whistle riff the track would do better without. The song is attempting to be too catchy in the wrong context and fails miserably at fulfilling its role as one of the happier, more upbeat songs on the album.
Failings aside, Menomena have released a very strong follow up to their debut, and their music pushes enough boundaries to take experimental music forward without venturing too far into electronic effects or too far away from conventional musical intruments.


Wet and Rusting
Evil Bee


1 comment:

  1. I so appreciate you putting these guys up on your blog! They're kitschy and talented, and even better, they're from one of the fastest-emerging markets in the US! It's a relief to know I'm not the only one with my eyes on this band.

    If you're into indie music, you should check out my very first blog post (of many more to follow!). It follows more of the A&R side of the indie music scene.


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