Review Summary: Menomena tighten up their sound and release their ballsiest album yet.
Portland indie rockers Menomena have always been both underrated and innovative, creating music that was distinctly their own and no one else's. They became known for their catchy, frantic, and sometimes messy, yet ultimately brilliant work on 2003's I Am the Fun Blame Monster
and 2007 follow-up Friend and Foe
. Then, in 2010, came a curveball; Mines
. The recording of Mines
was especially difficult for the trio, who were experiencing growing tensions with the group. The result was a slightly more impenetrable record that held little of the immediate punch of Blame Monster
or Friend and Foe
. It was an excellent album overall, but at the same time one could not help but feel that Menomena weren't living up to their full potential.
Then, last year, Brent Knopf announced his departure from the band. Reinvigorated as a duo, Justin Harris and Danny Seim quickly formed Moms
in their shortest gap between albums to date. And, lo and behold, Moms
just might be their strongest record to date.
The departure of Brent Knopf has changed their music significantly, and ultimately for the best. Moms
is their ballsiest, most "rock" album yet, and it packs much of the same punch as tracks like "TAOS" and "The Pelican" on previous albums. Menomena deftly combine classic rock influences and bring it all together with a modern touch. Although much of their quirkiness seems to have been lost with Knopf, it makes little difference, as Moms
presents the maturity record that Mines
could have been. Menomena truly feel like a rock band, perhaps for the first time ever.
Menomena have always been great at opening their albums, and Moms
is no different in that regard. "Plumage" opens up the record with frantic synths and handclaps, with Harris yelling "And I don't want to be just anybody to you, I want to be your one and only."
It's a touching love song and a fitting way to open such an energetic record. After "Plumage," Moms
never once lets up. Every song presents Menomena at their catchiest, heaviest, and most creative. Gone are the relative fillers such as "Running" or "Trigga Hiccups" that marked their previous albums; every song is a standout, and a few of them rank among the best songs of their career. "Heavy Is As Heavy Does" is one of the most emotionally impacting things they've ever made, opening with the line that characterizes much of the lyrical content on Moms
: "Heavy are the branches hanging from my ***ed up family tree.
" This time around, much more attention has been payed to the lyrics; previous albums featured often cryptic or sometimes senseless little tidbits that weren't terrible, yet were also usually nothing special.
With their fourth record and first as a duo, Menomena have tightened up virtually every aspect of their music and have released what might be their strongest record to date. Those skeptical of what the band might produce minus one Brent Knopf need not fear. Although Moms
presents a group that sounds quite a bit different from what they used to be, it also presents the group at their absolute best.