How does a highly creative band deliver what could only be described as their best album to date after they’ve parted ways with one of their most highly creative members? Judging from past musical history, this really doesn’t happen all too often.. Sometimes when a band loses one of their key members things just don’t feel the same from that moment onward.. As if something important is no longer there. This is the exact dilemma that was faced by Portland indie rock warriors Menomena after the departure of their very talented multi-instrumentalist Brent Knopf in January of 2011. The band was later quoted on Portland based music blog Local Cut with regards to Knopfs departure : “We lost a major creative force in Brent, but thankfully, Brent’s not Kurt Cobain, and we’re not Nirvana. Brent’s more like Peter Gabriel and we’re more like Genesis. And everyone knows how much better Genesis got after that talentless hack Gabriel quit. Waitaminute…” And so Menomena valiantly soldiered on..
Now almost a year and a half after Brent Knopf left, Menomena have finally returned with their new album Moms.. A 50 minute tour de force that has the band exploring both new and heavier surroundings whilst still staying true to their own weird and wonderful sound.. If you’re already a fan of Menomena and you haven’t yet listened to Moms because you’re fearful it’s going to sound almost too different you need not worry.. This is an album that never fails to deliver on almost all fronts.. Great quirky lyrics, bombastic beats, perfectly timed blasts of jazz flute.. Moms has it all.. And proves that even though Knopf is sorely missed by the band and fans alike, they’re still capable of releasing an album that’s worth just as much attention as their past body of work.. On with the review..
Moms begins with Plumage, a song that acts and sounds almost like most of what could be found in the bands previous releases, although there seems to be something a little more upbeat going on here.. It’s a great way to start an album that’s full of quite a few surprises, and it’s a song that grows with each listen.. which is refreshing for an albums intro track.. Following on from Plumage I was treated to Capsule, a song that’s every bit as catchy as anything from the bands seminal release Friend and Foe.. Containing lyrics that reference a “tiny muscle” and a “glory hole” I’m pretty sure you can all work out what this ones about.. Whilst I struggled to make any sense of the lyrics in this song I felt that this isn’t what the album is all about.. Menomena are one of those bands that can be quite confusing lyrically.. But that’s never thrown me off of adoring the amount of effort they put into the way that their music sounds.. And their arrangements… Well you just need to hear them for yourself..! If you haven’t listened to Menomena at any stage in the past you’re probably going to be thrown off by their awkward timing on most tracks.. But that’s the biggest part of what charmed me about them in the first place..
Storming ahead from Capsule the band takes on a slightly more TV On The Radio vibe with Pique.. With a drum intro that reminded me ever so slightly of The Fun Powder Plot by Wild Beasts, and a guitar break towards the middle of the song that can only be described as a case of near perfect musical timing, this is a great track.. I really got the feeling that the band has become even more invested in the power of a fantastic horn section.. There’s certainly a feeling of great production values here, and it really shows.. A bigger, better and bolder Menomena really has been born out of the past few years troubles..
Another element of Moms that made me smile during my first few listens was the overwhelming feeling that the band actually had a whole lot of fun whilst making this album.. Songs like Baton give the feeling that this is a band thats experienced somewhat of a rebirth by losing a founding member.. And despite the odds things have worked out quite well to say the least.. If there’s one thing that I’ve always loved about music it’s bands that aren’t afraid to experiment with tried and true sounds in order to give their own music a shake up.. Obviously in this case things work.. Which is more than I can say for the new Muse album.. (sorry Muse fans!)
Amongst all of the experimentation and refinement that’s gone on in the recording of Moms, Menomena haven’t forgotten who they are as a band.. And there’s plenty of fan service on offer here for long time listeners of everything that they’ve done in the past.. Almost all tracks on the album are noteworthy.. Something that I don’t generally find in a lot of albums these days.. Highlights include Skintercourse which features guitar reminiscent of Louis XIV, and is just about as infectious as Menomena gets.. If you were to listen to this album and you weren’t able to find at least 5 tracks that you thought were great I’d be quite worried..
Unfortunately there comes a point where Moms needs to end, and that point is One Horse.. A track that on first listen I thought was not the right way to finish the album… Until I hit the 5-minute mark that is.. One Horse is a track that continues to build upon itself until it becomes a thing of beauty.. And that’s been Menomena in a nutshell.. A band that have continued to explore new and brave musical frontiers for the past 12 years.. Through the ups and the downs, the side projects and everything else that’s happened along the way.. This is an album that I’d quite happily recommend to anyone that’s happy to listen to something different.. Something that’s just a little bit weirder than what they’re used to.. An album that’s a clear sign of a band that’s growing into something rather awesome.. A band that knows their own strengths and has built on them in unexpected and exciting ways.. And a band that’s certainly worth watching even after being in the business for over a decade.. Menomena’s story is far from over
What did YOU think of this album? Love it, or Hate it? Leave a comment below!