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Menomena – Friend & Foe

21 March 2007, 16:27 Written by Rich Hughes
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The musical world of obscure indie-rock seems to be flourishing at the moment. Albums from the likes of TV On The Radio and Deerhoof are finding themselves topping polls and getting rave reviews, listeners seem to be opening themselves up to experience something a bit different. If this is the latest trend, then Menomena should be championed as one of its heroes. Their first album proper, Friend And Foe, is a glorious mesh of interwoven sounds and influences, creating an entertaining and impressive blanket of left-field indie pop. From their covert art to their website you get the feeling that they take the “art” aspect of what they do seriously. Not too seriously mind, but just enough to suggest at something driving them to push the boundaries of what they do.

If you’re looking for a reference to what they sound like TV On The Radio is the closest I can think of, expect TVotR if they’d listened to more pop songs as they grew up. There’s something intrinsically happy and joyful about Menomena, they don’t plough the same troubled furrow as the latter. The fantastic Wet And Rusting delicately starts with a sparse arrangement of electronica and high pitched vocals before a piercing piano line, simple and yet invoking percolates through, acoustic guitars sturm before a drum with ADDH kicks in, tripping and clattering around the piano. It’s glorious stuff. Weird starts off all krautrock before it flips round, saxophones thump and guitars slide, sparsely, around the vocals which seem to be dealing with relationship reconciliation. Whilst TVotR would take this further into the depths, Menomena keep it happy and fluffy, the music feels light and airy. Rotten Hell is the closest thing to an out-and-out song on here, gently shuffling drums skip over the piano and bass, sounding not unlike something Jim O’Rourke would produce. It builds into something uplifting, a chorus of vocals bring things into a happier realm. Then there’s Running, which sounds exactly as the name would suggest, a distant relative to Pink Floyd’s On The Run except with weirdly distorted vocals. And this is all before you encounter My My. It’s amazing blend of piano and fuzzed up guitars, the vocals coming across like Mercury Rev before it builds into something truly wonderful.

This year has already had its highlights of left-field indie, but Friend And Foe has just leap frogged them all. This is intelligent, challenging and, ultimately, brilliant weird indie-pop that could easily soundtrack a David Lynch film, but still has a light side. A side that makes you realise that not everything has to be dark and gruesome; beauty can be equally as challenging.

Links:
Menomena [official site] [myspace]
Barsuk [official site]

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