Review Summary: The start of this is the beginning of a great band's career.
Moneen's first album may not be their finest, but it is the genesis of the sheer scope and cavernous sound that would make their later releases so very wonderful, and this in itself makes 'The Theory of Harmonial Value' worth buying. Of course, the fact that it's an excellent album doesn't hurt either.
One of the things that has always impressed me about Moneen is their pinpoint musicianship. They throw in a dizzying array of guitar styles, from battering power chords to bouncy math rock interludes and squalling tremolo picking that makes their music ever the more interesting to listen to. 'The Start To This May Be The End To Another' is an example of this, beginning as a driving rock song, before slowing to a dreamy instrumental section, with a soft repeated vocal line and a mist of drumming, which ascends back into white-knuckle mid-tempo intensity without missing a beat. It is at this point that I would like to mention Kenny Bridges' vocal power - the man can really sing, and although he doesn't have a pitch perfect voice like Copeland
's Aaron March, it is earnest and heartfelt, giving the listener a connection from the off. Also, his interplay with second guitarist/vocalist Chris 'Hippy' Hughes is second to none, and his lyrics have a stability that carry Moneen well above their contemporaries.
'A Realization Of How It's Always Been' and 'What Did You Say?... I'm Sorry, My Eyes Are On Fire' are almost like a stretched and lengthened 'The Start To This...', as 'A Realisation...' ensnares the bouncy punch that begins the first track, and 'What Did You Say...' brings in the harmonious closing, with tribal drumming and a vocal chanting. Either way, they are both good songs in their own right.
'Half Empty? Half Full? I Never Got A Glass To Start With' is another gut-kicking pop rock song in the vein of 'Realisation...', but this time, the instrumental interlude has a real feeling of low-end menace to it, with chugging palm muting being the order of the day, acting as a counterpoint to the guitar acrobatics of the beginning and end.
'What The Weatherman Forgot To Tell You' begins slow, with cascading dual vocals merging into one, until the tempo doubles, with fragmented chords and a brash drum line thundering to a conclusion.
'No Better Way To Show Your Love Than A Set Of Broken Legs' is one of the best straightforward rockers on the album; a forceful yet melodic rabbit punch that will catch you straight away, and have you singing along from the first time you hear it. Also, you can't help but smile a little at the lyrics, which are both emotional and humourous; "I want to break my legs just so I won't forget to be nice to you."
'Why Bother Wondering When Wondering's All You Got' is a return to the slower pace, but it is much better than 'What The Weatherman...', with a piano sliding into the heady mix. Kenny and Hippy really nail their vocals here, and the lyrics instantly capture the essence of a confused lover wondering what they did wrong without being overwrought or maudlin; "Sitting here wondering why I'm sitting here alone once again." A standout song, with a great guitar solo to end with.
'The Passing of America' is a longer cut, a brother to 'The Start To This...', but it surpasses the first song by some way. "No! I won't go! I want to stay here, with you!" yells Kenny, and the guitars are simultaneously yearning and wrenching. Soon, the anger fades, everything softens into lush harmonies - but only for a bit. The slower tempo is kept but the heaviness ramps up into nothingness. And then, you're hit with a kickass instrumental fadeout that's so good that it could be a song in itself. A brilliant song. (And, if you follow on to the next album in Moneen's career, 'Are we Really Happy with who we are Right Now?', then this riff actually becomes a song, called 'Closing My Eyes Won't Help Me Leave')
The last two, 'I Wish I Was There To See The Way It Was Supposed To Be' and 'Tonight, I'm Gone...', are quite different. 'I Wish...' veers between slowness and guitar thump, but 'Tonight, I'm Gone...' is one of the longest, most ambitious and most interesting songs in Moneen's career. It feels like a heavier distant cousin to Jimmy Eat World
's 'Goodbye Sky Harbor', as it begins with a sweet, powerful pop rock attack, and then unfolds over twelve and a half minutes of brooding, ringing guitar, with the fictional Dr Lozlo Pronowski reading his last entry concerning The Theory Of Harmonial Value in a thick accent. It is somehow rather affecting and challenging, bewildering and puzzling - and pretty damn cool.
Overall, 'The Theory Of Harmonial Value' is a worthy addition to a collection, and hopefully will spur you on to getting Moneen's entire catalogue if this album whets your appetite for emotional, powerful, melodious, interesting and lush rock music.