Tuesday, February 6, 2007


Menomena's second full length album came out a couple weeks ago. i pre-ordered it on amazon expecting to have it in my mailbox within 3-5 business days as promised. the anticipation was bubbling up inside me like magma. the first album by the Portland, Oregon group, I Am The Fun Blame Monster (an anagram of "the first Menomena album") had me reeling for more. after 6 days of mail checking, not counting the weekend, it arrived.

first off, i need to address the album art. it was, after all, one of the reasons why i bought a tangible CD in this modern digital age. there are virtually no words anywhere in the packaging except for the on the actual disc. its equivalent to the wordless ( ) album by Sigur Ros. the booklet is a single folded piece of card stock filled with various illustrations in each of the 4 sections. this artwork was created by Craig Thompson, well known for his graphic novel, "Blankets" (the accent here on novel, as it is a 600 page book about his early life). the clever angle isn't actually the illustrations. its the cut outs. each of the sections is thematically colored. gray. blue. red. green. each has holes where mouths or eyes of little drawn creatures should be. by folding, flipping or turning the booklet and rotating the CD to line up different symbols and colors, there are virtually limitless possible variations to its appearance . you could even pop the plastic backing of the jewel case apart and flip the back over if you wanted to. i like this new "make you our CD" trend going on. Beck did something similar with "The Information" album.

all around, this band is really pushing the creativity envelope. i love that when i tell someone about these guys and they ask, "who do they sound like?", i can't really give an answer.

now, if you'll allow me to gush...

the whole album is truly astounding. the first half alone would have left me satiated. this three piece's debut, I Am The Fun Blame Monster, had spectacular drumming. hip hop meets electronica pounded out on a drum kit. the piano plinking and lullaby-esque arpeggios shouldn't have meshed, but somehow they did. heavy bass line grooves. processed sound. guitars you have to listen for. saxophone even, occasionally blaring like the horn of an oncoming mack truck. these things shouldn't work together. it should shoot out in a headache inducing mess, but it doesn't. to hear the songs without any one variable would sound lacking in some degree. and thankfully, most of that feel returns and this time out they've added even more density to the compositions.

the opening 4 tracks - "Muscle'n Flo", ""The Pelican", "Wet And Rusting" and "Air Aid" - are all phenomenal. worth the price of admission alone. "The Pelican" throbs with low notes, both on bass and piano, as the beat keeps the head bobbling. its almost trance like. "Wet and Rusting" is probably the most pop oriented song of the lot. textural. energetic. accessible. blips, reversed guitars & beautiful harmonies. things get a little more abstract as the album progresses. i say this as a good thing. "Weird", possibly the golden boy of Friend & Foe, sums up the album in one song. the drumming changes rhythm multiple times without sounding off. the rest of the band just alters to fit. it really showcases the fractured nature of their writing style, overlaying disjointed sounds and riffs, turning puzzle pieces around and around and around until they fit. the production is top notch and listening with headphones reveals something more, something subtly overlooked in every song.

this isn't an album you can hear and walk away from. you need to own it.
the day after i got it, i tossed it in the stereo at work and listened to it on repeat all day long. literally all day. i didn't tire of it. i still haven't.

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