Menomena Friend and Foe(Barsuk) Buy it from Insound
This one took me by surprise. I wasn't expecting to be confronted by a band so immersed and so adept in the three key facets of pop music; sonic presentation, songwriting and performance. In fact they are so equally adept at each that its hard to hear exactly where these songs started. Were they built from the ground up with pc loop noodling? Did someone run into the studio with a batch of new songs? Or did they evolve organically out of jamming? Anything is possible because no detail has been left unattended to. The arrangements are playful yet controlled, the songs are catchy and almost conventional, and the instrumental and vocal performances drip with passion.
Asked to classify their sound I'd have to say I hear traces of the Secret Machines, Rogue Wave, Elbow, My Morning Jacket, and TV on the Radio (it's about time those guys influenced somebody!), among others. In fact, a cynical observer might opine that Menomena sits a little to closely to their influences, since you could almost be fooled into thinking you were hearing those other bands on various tracks. Certainly "My, My" could have rested comfortably on Z, and "The Pelican" sounds like a leftover from Return to Cookie Mountain sessions. The cynic would be literally correct, but exuberance always dwarfs petty criticism. There is an inherent vitality to this record that can't be contained by nitpicking.
That's not to say its perfect, but as a sophomore effort it's grandly impressive and points to potentially greater things in the future. Most importantly, it improves with each listen. The only thing holding it back from utter awesomeness is perhaps a lack of truly blood-chilling transcendent moments, of which the latest Arcade Fire abounds, for instance. But there are delectable snatches nonetheless. I love the syncopated piano rhythm on "Evil Bee", the Adepimbe-esque wailing vocals on "Muscle n' Flo", and the solo guitar breaks and magical chord shift at 2:35 on "The Pelican. But the strength of this album really lies in its consistency; you can actually listen to it all the way through without reaching for the "next" button. That may sound like faint praise, but it isn't.
This band deserves a lot more attention than its getting. Then again, practically everything of worth produced in this day and age deserves more attention than its getting, so why should they be any different. But I would urge music lovers to check these guys out and keep watching. Music this good can't be a fluke.
Note: If I could, I would add some decimal points onto that 8 rating.1 May, 2007 - 15:31 — Alan Shulman