Portland band finally cuts loose
Menomena has always taken a cut-and-paste approach to songwriting. The trio’s 2004 debut, I Am The Fun Blame Monster!, juxtaposed stilted crescendos of piano, guitar and saxophone with silence. The melodies of 2007’s Friend and Foe were a bit more bombastic—drums pounding, horns blasting—though the remaining loops still entered and exited without warning, cutting out before they could air out.
Monster and Foe were sonically tidy, moody yet never indulgent. On Mines, however, full-blown insanity finally breaks free of the straightjacket. Take “Killemall,” an apocalyptic race between steady drums and scurrying piano arriving nearly 10 minutes into the album; the song rises and falls in just the right places, with agitated flutes and electric guitars spinning like helicopter rotors at the start and finish and ascending strings acting as checkpoints cuing verses’ end.
After that cinematic clamor, Menomena dives headfirst into a murky stream of consciousness, where ghostly voices fill the cracks of their past. Disappearing and reappearing melodies play out like fleeting thoughts; the simple “please don’t fail me now” plea of “BOTE” shocks with shrill electric convulsions, and “Five Little Rooms” sounds downright sinister as deep tubas and hollow knocking sounds create a supersonic claustrophobia. Mines is Menomena at its best—mentally relentless and physically ruthless.