Menomena – Friend And Foe

Friend And Foe

I love it when bands take chances, try something new and regardless of it’s potential commercial appeal, unleash it upon the general public. Especially when the end result is some sharp and venturesome rock good enough to rub elbows with such indie-rock luminaries as Modest Mouse and Wolf Parade, and also contains enough quirky art-rock catchy enough to be mentioned in the same breath as Starlight Mints and The Flaming Lips. Menomena, the unusual and imaginative experimental rock trio of Danny Seim, Justin Harris and Brent Knopf from Portland, OR. is just such a band and they’re taking their chances with Friend And Foe, their Barsuk Records debut and 3rd release overall.

Friend And Foe‘s songs are a mutant version of dissonant but catchy musical phrases borne from what the band call “Deeler Sessions” (using a Max/MSP computer program written by Knopf), basically an enhanced guitar-loop pedal. These loop files are then formed into daring and cohesive tunes by adding vocals, additional instrumental breaks and using the band’s uncanny ability to coax melodic articulations from seemingly incompatible improvisational rock snippets. While they may occasionally stray from the melodic into the schizophrenic, the ride is usually fun as hell.

The cerebral rock on Friend And Foe is delivered in various forms and styles and with a multitude of instruments, both acoustic and electric, making it a clever and diverse album, but at the same time making it difficult to absorb all at once. And with all three members sharing lead vocal duties, it’s even harder to pin down Menomena’s sound. But that’s what makes it such an intriguingly good record. The listener is thrown curveballs from track to track with all the shifts in style and performance so the brilliance of this mischievous indie-rock is not immediately apparent and it may take some open-mindedness and a few attentive spins before coming to terms with the music on this disc.

While the hauntingly pleasurable vocal and guitar histrionics of Wolf Parade and Modest Mouse can be heard on a few tracks, others employ some neo-psychedelic, dream-pop keyboards and vocals reminiscent of The Flaming Lips. In contrast, some of the slower tracks are more progressive with cool keyboards, jazzy bits and vocals that sound eerily similar to Guy Garvey (Elbow), while still others take after the playful and quirky indie-rock of Starlight Mints by incorporating some short musical bursts that are as universally appealing as a nursery rhyme or a childish playground chant.

But whatever the influences, Menomena cut them, twist them, blend them and shape them in a novel manner and from a unique perspective and have created an album that contains many dynamic rhythms that are thrashing and catchy which make it hard to describe but easy to recommend.