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One Nation Under

January 23, 2007


Good god! In celebration of the release of Menomena's new LP Friend Or Foe, we thought we'd do something old fashioned and LISTEN TO IT on HEADPHONES really LOUD. Sometimes indie rock seems wild boring - yeah yeah, another band with another album, not mad, but it gets hard to care! - but then three dudes get together and make this: beautifully arranged songs that together make an album, and it's all executed with, like, huge melodies and tiny melodies and really smart drums 'n' percussion and production that gives everything its space and funky Tom Zé guitar lines and buzzing synth lines and Morphine horns and a real fucking groove. A real groove! Menomena made an appearance in the magazine a coupla years back, so read the story after the jump, but we'd be bullshitting you if we said we saw Friend Or Foe coming. Anyway, join us! You're invited! Get your headphones out! Turn it LOUD! LET'S ALL GO IN TOGETHER!!!


Menomena lost it

By Reed Fischer

The next time some cantankerous elitist guffaws at the overuse of the term “independent,” redirect them to the dependent nature of Menomena. Although the band lives in an indie mecca (Portland) and once wondered if local stores would even peddle its record, what’s compelling is how these dudes just need each other.
Instead of one mad genius directing traffic in their woodshed studio, each Menomena song is a mash-up of three songwriters’ innovations looped by the geeked-out software that Brent Knopf has written for the band. But during a packed New York tour stop in November, the software-less three-headed Menomena beast displayed the dizzying skills of, like, 18 people, while blasting through the dense, UNKLE-fied piano-pop of their last album I Am The Fun Blame Monster. No tour guitarist, no drum machine and, seemingly, no way in hell.

During “The Late Great Libido”, Justin Harris juggled vocals, saxophone, bass and a homemade board of effects pedals. Meanwhile, Knopf feverishly controlled a pile of keyboards, a glockenspiel and an electric guitar; he had to sing a few syllables so Harris could finish a sax solo. Danny Seim battered his drum kit with precision and they all hit three-part harmonies. It’s clockwork and it’s clearly exhausting, but despite the multi-tasking, Menomena isn’t quite a band of perfectionists. “There isn’t significant stuff missing,” Knopf says. “Obviously we don’t have a sequencer onstage spewing out a background track to fill every hole.”
Nearly everything Menomena has done—including the pop-up book inspired album packaging and their custom-built touring van—has been a collaborative effort. Recently, they completed work on a new three-song experimental album entitled Under An Hour. “Writing an 18-minute piece without being Rush or Godspeed You! Black Emperor is kind of crazy,” Seim says.

Unfortunately, space prevents the discussion of what “crazy” means to a dude who claims he’s managed by a dog named Geddy Lee. But know this: every band may be insanity prone, but Menomena went so far as to make an album that’s supposed to be long/short like the American occupation of Iraq. Crazy or not though, it’ll be cool. The band’s three-way symbiotic relationship helps them keep their act together.

Posted: January 23, 2007
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