Release Date: Jan 23, 2007
Record label: Barsuk
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Though Menomena often peg themselves as an experimental band, and to some extent very much are an experimental band -- they create most of their songs using a homemade computer program that loops their instrumental riffs until they come up with something whole -- especially in the rhythm section, where the bass and drums play off one another intricately, blending punk- and funk-inspired beats with more straightforward rock emphases, they also have a delicate sense of melody and composition that balances these heavier underpinnings and makes the band rather poppy at times. It's a nice contrast, the lighter keyboards and almost nasally indie rock vocals (which all three members share) against the pounding drums and ominous saxophone. Musically, there's a lot happening on Friend and Foe, their first release with Barsuk -- different bits entering and exiting -- but it's not overwhelming or pretentious, because the band knows what it takes to create a song, and so they can then deconstruct its more typical notions and rebuild it into something that, while it may have recognizable and approachable parts, is more unconventional.
Experimental pop is a bit of a contradiction in terms. Pop is, by its nature, a unitary sort of art, full of two- and three-minute verse/chorus songs that are so integrated and self-sufficient that you simply cannot think of them in terms of their components. Experiments, by contrast, are all about breaking the rules, slapping things together, blowing up complacencies.
Portland, Ore., trio Menomena blasted out of the indie rock netherworld with 2004's ecstatic I Am the Fun Blame Monster! The band's m.o. is direct from the future: Multi-instrumentalist Brent Knopf created looping software Deeler, which forms the basis for all Menomena tracks. Now with their second LP, Friend and Foe, the trio hones its craft, mixing experimentation with David Byrne-like songwriting and jarring yet cohesive structure.