Review Summary: Best indie album of 2007?
Meneguar - Strangers in Our House
As much as I'm a music elitist, I purposefully try to not be a music hipster. I furtively check out pitchfork not to find new bands to rep, but to find which bands I should avoid. With the exception of the bizarre and singular Xiu Xiu, I don't think I've done much bandwagon jumping in terms of bands that get high metascores or can be called Best New Music by popular reviewing outposts. So it is with great pleasure that I discovered Meneguar, a band that seems to have both slipped under the radar of these fashionista reviewing websites yet would appeal on all levels to such sites. And it is with even greater pleasure that I realized Meneguar is a favorite of the hardcore scene, being one of those indie bands like Murder by Death or Cursive that are lauded by fans of heavier music for whatever reason. Meneguar is a band that is forged from the indie fires that should make them appeal to fans of bands like Wolf Parade but has been hidden away in the most obscure hardcore blogs.
This pleasure of mine is a sick one though. It's a jealous pleasure that I could have a slick Brooklyn indie band all to myself. I'd be content just keeping Meneguar to myself if they were just some local scrubs with no greater designs than to play a few shows and toss out a demo EP or something. However, Strangers in Our House
is Meneguar's second LP and they haven't gotten any formal reviews from major reviewing sites. To be honest, they're so dam
n good, they actually should be shared with the greater world of hipsters, elitists, and casual musical consumers alike. Their style and aesthetic is fairly simple. They are a riff-based rock band with very upbeat drumming and basswork. The vocals are a bit off of center veering towards melodic shouting most of the time, and that is accompanied by somewhat opaque lyrics that keep the listener at arm's length with a certain sardonic attitude. Wow, in premise they sound like slews of other indie bands and it's this premise that enables Meneguar to be so catchy and accessible. On the surface they're just another indie band, but underneath that, there is quite a bit brewing.
Firstly, the songwriting is clutch. There isn't a song on Strangers in our House
that slips through the cracks of one's memory. Each song will invariably have a passage that can snag the listener. Most will have more than three such passages. Even songs that start off awkwardly like "Scrape and a Pull" are redeemed rather quickly. In that song's case it is the wonderful interplay of guitar and bass starting at 0:46 that makes me forget about the goofy, dissonant introduction. Secondly, is that Meneguar is a riff-based band, which enables awesome interplay between the instruments. The album starts off proudly displaying the interweaving of Meneguar's riffs on "Table 2." The guitars and bass are all playing tremolo melodies that overlap polyphonically like a Bach chorale more than a modern rock anthem. The album is laden with cool undulating bass riffs, staccato lead guitar lines, and smooth arpeggios in the rhythm guitar (though admittedly the lines are massively blurred between melody / harmony and lead / rhythm on the bivalent guitar playing). Thirdly, is the upbeat tempo of the album. A lot of the success of Strangers in Our House
comes from the guitar-bass interplay and how that fits into the songwriting, but all of these positive would be null if the songs plodded or droned along. The drumming, which is casually very sophisticated for a riff-rock band, creates an uptempo, fun attitude that permeates the album. The drum performance only wanes on the last three tracks as the album fittingly wanes into slower, more pensive tracks that sound a lot like the slow songs of Frodus or No Knife, which is not a band thing.
Overall, Strangers in Our House
is an impressive album. It has the surface appeal to ensnare radio listeners who typically can't get beyond Franz Ferdinand, but it also has enough going on underneath the catchiness for it to appeal to fans of the sophisticated songwriting of abstruse indie or convoluted post-hardcore. Meneguar are one band I wouldn't mind getting a car on the hype train. They deserve it.