Jeff Moody
Stripwax

Menomena Means Nothing But Innovative Sound

By - Jul 28th, 2010 10:20 am
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This week, Stripwax kinda gave Menomena the short shrift (as will sometimes happen) in terms of describing what their new elpee sounds like.

Instead, I went for a story line that reflected some thought-ramble about the fact that the United States barely produces anything anymore, and how “industrious” types now build “industries” that “manufacture” things like, say, “financial products.” In a sense, the music industry has gone that route as well. Sure, artists still record and “product” is still available, but a large portion of the industry’s largess has gone into litigation against music consumers (one of the most boneheaded bizzness moves of all time) and against innovators like Sean Fanning, the guy who came up with peer-to-peer file sharing, all in the name of fighting “piracy.”

Litigation over innovation. It’s The New American Way.

None of this, of course, has anything to do with Menomena. Morris and Langely were the handy puppets I reached for to work in my obsession of the moment.

So lemme tell you about Menomena: They are a trio from Portland, OR. They have a very subtle sound. Each track on “Mines” takes a few listens to soak into yer brain, but once they make it there, they stick because the arrangements are weirdly beautiful and packed with surprise.

“Dirty Cartoons” is nothing like what the title might lead you to think. A weary vocal, an acoustic guitar, piano notes that flit around like tiny white butterflies, aching harmonies and eventual percussion build up to what sounds like a ghost’s lament: “I’d like to go home.” “Five Rooms” is a track that sounds exactly what I’d expect ManMan to sound like under a Xanax haze, with plenty of (albeit subdued) percussive action, ominous, almost comical use of baritone saxophones, but with a prettier, Menomena-style harmonic mantra.

The wildcard in the “Mines” deck is “Taos,” which opens up with a thick, dirty bass line, blues-bar piano, and a drum kit that’s as close to being abused as it’s ever been by these guys. “Taos” stands out as a rock song, which says something about Menomena: they really do defy categorization. They take the most seemingly incompatible textures and make them work together. They’ve created a sound that is truly their own, and sometimes, that sound is truly astonishing.

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