Posted by: will | January 24, 2007



Menomena “Friend And Foe” (Barsuk)

Buy it at Insound!

Menomena’s 2004 debut album, I Am The Fun Blame Monster!, was a stunner of an album. It showed how much could still be done under the general context of indie rock. Debut albums like the one Menomena released are a double-edged sword for most bands. On one hand is the notoriety the band receives. On the other hand you can bet the sophomore album is going to be heavily scrutinized. Menomena did release the experimental Under An Hour in 2006. It was originally composed as one-time accompaniment for a modern dance performance at a festival in the band’s hometown of Portland, OR. However, Friend And Foe is Menomena’s proper sophomore album and it sees the band jumping up to the high profile indie label, Barsuk.

The band’s songwriting is unique to say the least and perhaps that is what sets them apart. Menomena use a computer program called a Digital Looping Recorder during their song writing process. Reading over the band’s press, it states that the band “perform, sing, arrange, create, and destroy (their) songs.” I could not have put it any better. Friend And Foe is quite brilliant in its equality. Fans who fell in love with I Am The Fun Blame Monster! and want more of the same should fall head over heels all over again for Menomena. Equally, fans hoping the band would head into more experimental waters should be pacified as well. It is a remarkable accomplishment that the band has been able to strike such a perfect balance on Friend And Foe.

It’s quite fitting that album opener “Muscle ‘n Flo” starts off with a quick drum-roll. Menomena use percussion as a focal point to a much greater extent than most bands and it certainly distinguishes them. “Muscle ‘n Flo” is an upbeat and off-kilter song that really sets the pace for Friend And Foe. “Wet And Rusting” is the album’s first single and it is easy to see why. It’s an infectious, yet challenging piece that highlights vulnerable vocals over piano and creative percussion. “Duel” starts out bathed in keyboards before the vocals come in. The song rises and falls with such beauty and precision. “Boyskouts Sweetboyskouts” is an outstanding track that sees the band heading in an exciting new direction. The squawk of a saxophone and the creative percussion elements of the band carry the song into remote waters. It works surprisingly well though. The sax reappears on “Airaid” and “Weird” and one can not help but think of the indomitable Morphine when hearing the way the band expertly uses the instrument to accent their songs. “Rotten Hell” is a truly gorgeous pop song. It is by far the most straightforward of tracks on the album. It proves the band truly understands when to add layers and when to sit back and let the song speak for itself. Menomena loses some steam on the second half of the album but let’s be honest here…this band’s second-rate songs are miles ahead of most bands.

With Friend And Foe, Menomena have tossed aside any notion of a sophomore slump. While perhaps not as immediately rewarding as I Am The Fun Blame Monster!, this album offers more for the truly discriminating listener. Menomena have put themselves into elite company in the indie rock world. The band continues to make challenging pop music at the highest level and I for one can not wait to see what they have in store for us next.

RIYL: XTC, The Flaming Lips, Morphine


Menomena – Muscle ‘n Flo (mp3)

Menomena – Wet And Rusting (mp3)

Stream the entire album here.


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