Menomena. If, like me, you’ve just replied “do do de do do” then we’re on the same wavelength, which is probably not a good thing and to be honest you may want to go and seek professional help.
But that actually has nothing to do with the review itself. Menomena (do do de”¦ No, no stop that!) return with their fourth album Mines. This Portland based three piece produce their music using a software programme called Deeler which is a software audio looper written by band member Brent Knopf. It allows each of the band members to layer their parts on top of the others one at a time, adding bits and pieces as required and allowing a truly democratic approach to songwriting. Usually starting with a drum track on a loop, each member gets an exactly equal chance to add their own influence to a song. This, along with the fact that a lot of the album was put together via email, does lead to a sometimes raw, chaotic or under-produced sound, but to be honest this works perfectly for the band as it gels with their alternative, experimental nature.
Whilst experimental is a good term to use for the band, their sound itself is quite hard to categorise. I am loath to use the term “art-rock” but unfortunately I feel that I may be forced to do so here as little else really comes close.
As well we all know, those “arty” types can often stumble into pretentiousness, and Menomena could easily have fallen into the same trap but thankfully it is one that they managed to avoid. The mixing of styles and genres (there are elements of prog-rock, electronica, grunge, blues and even jazz, as well as the bands penchant for changing instruments and flipping a coin to decide vocal duties) could have ended up as an extravagant artistic mess but instead we end up with a sprawling, meandering, musical adventure.
The album opens with Queen Black Acid and if Band of Horses invented a time machine and went back in time to jam with an early 90s Blur they may have produced something that sounded like this. Next in line is TAOS.Â This is heavier, rockier, more like Kasabian crossing swords with The Black Keys. This kind of diversity continues throughout the album. Just when you think you know where they are going the mood shifts, the tone changes and you are presented with a whole new proposition.
At times uplifting and energetic and at others moody and melancholic it”™s this variety that makes the album the marvel that it is but throughout it all it”™s the fantastic melodies and the mature, and at times introverted, lyrics that are the glue that holds it all together.
While I can”™t see this album breaking into the mainstream, as it certainly is not for everyone (it”™s too varied, too unpredictable) it is a definite must for anyone looking for something alternative and different and willing to let their imagination take them somewhere new. It is a musical ride that you should jump aboard and see where it takes you.