Music Reviews
I Am The Fun Blame Monster

Menomena I Am The Fun Blame Monster

(Muuuhahaha!) Buy it from Insound Rating - 10/10

With the recent release of The Shins' Chutes Too Narrow and now this, Menomena's debut I Am The Fun Blame Monster - certainly the coolest album title of 2003 - Portland is making its stake as one of the hottest Indie places in America.

In a time when the recording industry is run by a bunch of greedy, technophobic old guys - here comes a band that takes technology to the threshold of innovation. Vocalist/Keyboardist/Computer Programmer Brent Knopf designed his own software, dubbed Deeler (short for Digital Looping Recorder), which assists in fusing improvised recordings into shorter musical phrases that can be looped and layered as the band sees fit.

This cut and paste style of composition results in every track existing as a sort of haphazard mini-epic, each song bursting with dynamic leaps and cuts as they slice between sticky drumbeats and rubbery bass lines. Created with equal parts hip-hop energy and pop songcraft, the album is unconventional without putting on airs and almost frightening in its eclecticism. Is it glitch pop? Indie Electronica? Who knows? Who cares? The album makes one thing certain: Menomena will not be pigeonholed into any existing musical category.

Droning organs, jagged guitars, angry sax, lachrymose pianos and gentle melodies infuse the album with a pulsating energy that begins with a heated drum roll and rarely lets up. Instruments fade in and out with little or no warning, Brent Knopf's tenor ranges from sinister to aching to resignation with equal intensity, and the skeleton of every track is provided by the funkiest rhythm section since the Dismemberment Plan called it quits. All this combines Voltron-style to create one of the most subtle and fascinating albums since Radiohead broke all the Indie kids' brains with Kid A. Pretty good for a band that, before the release of this album, had yet to tour outside their own hometown.

In fact, Radiohead comparisons are not out of the question. One of the album's strongest tracks, Strongest Man in the World, marries Thom Yorke's penchant for electronica and mournful piano better than any track on Hail to the Thief. Knopf even has Yorke's ability to make cryptic lyrics like "I am fused out of iron" soar with plaintive vulnerability.

But it's not all morose; the insurgent guitar and strained vocals that propel Trigga Hiccups seem designed to instill fear in the minds of small children (though for real fear, check out the band's website at www.menomena.com - like taking dangerously powerful hallucinogens in the middle of a circus sideshow). The fact that all this noise comes from three guys is pretty phenomenal. Some of the songs are so chaotic that they sound like the wheels are about to fall off at any second, and the beauty is how close the band decides to tow that line. It is merciless in its intensity, pausing only for the delicate Oahu, and the dirge-like opening of Rose.

Sometimes music critics drone on and on about the intricacies of an album, when the actual message is short and precise: I can't recommend this album strongly enough. On Twenty Cell Revolt, keyboards swell triumphantly as singer Brent Knopf cries - "try and stop us now." If there is any semblance of justice on this planet, no one will.