Follow by Email

Sunday, May 15, 2011

13. Menomena: Friend And Foe

Click to enlarge and see
Craig Thompson's intricate details
Sometimes, you know what you're getting into, but, usually, you happen upon music by chance...a CD playing in the background, or a song on the radio from a band you've never heard. And then sometimes, you have tickets for a show and decide to actually make it there in time for the opening act. Catching a band live on stage is a much more potent lure for me, and for this next post, I've decided to share an album from a band that most will not know...a band that I happened upon by chance.

My wife and I had tickets to see Bloc Party at Portland's Roseland Theater in 2009. Seeing the opening band is part of the whole night's experience and we made it there in time to see local band, Menomena, perform most of their set. We had no idea who they were and didn't even know their name upon arriving. However, we were quickly smitten as the trio constantly swapped vocal duties and played a variety of instruments throughout the show...from saxophones and a foot synthesizer to a laptop and glockenspiel (as well as your basics...guitar, drums, and keyboards). By the end of the night, we agreed that Bloc Party was great, but the opening act had upstaged the headliner. We had found a new toy for our ears.

2007's Friend And Foe is officially listed as Menomena's third studio album. However, their second, called Under An Hour, is a three track instrumental (at about 17 minutes per track) that comes across as more of a concoction of a side project rather than a connection between 2003's debut, I Am The Fun Blame Monster! (an anagram for "The First Menomena Album"...and being rereleased next week with nine bonus tracks) and Friend And Foe. So this is, for all intents and purposes, their second release in the normal-length-songs category.

You'll notice beautiful tempo changes right away on the roller coaster ride of "Muscle'n Flo". It begins with crashing drums that leave you as quick as they come, only to hit you soon again with a vengeance. "The Pelican" follows with a relentless pounding that might sound harsh but somehow turns into a sing-along just a few plays later. Other great songs include "Wet And Rusting", "Weird", and "Rotten Hell". The second half of the album is anchored by "Boyscout'n" which sounds like it could've come from Elvis Costello's strange masterpiece, The Juliet Letters, and "Evil Bee" which provides the album with its most memorable lyrics..."Oh to be a machine...Ohhh to be be useful..." repeated over several different musical arrangements throughout. It all works wonderfully!

Also worth mentioning is the packaging for Friend And's amazing. Created and illustrated by Craig Thompson, it contains die-cuts, decoder rings, and hidden messages (most of which I've not found). In 2007, it was rightfully nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Recording Package.

Again, Menomena are from Portland, but have developed a great following across the country, and they are extremely accessible. Here's a fun video of them performing "Weird" in a Brooklyn home for the Plum TV show Juan's Basement. Enjoy, and thanks for reading.


  1. I love this video...watching Danny Seim play drums is so entertaining, and I can hardly sing and clap hands at the same time so I'm envious of their flawless multitasking.

    I really hope you explore some of their music.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.