Menomena - Moms
Menomena have always left fans somewhat on the edge: creative differences, implications of splitting and general friction have followed the band from album to album - but something miraculous always seems to push them through. Last year, previously integral member Brent Knopf departed the band to focus on his duties with Ramona Falls, further fuelling gossip about the remaining duo’s stability. With the release of Moms, their second triumphant album in two years, it’s high time such menial squabbles were left to dissipate.
Moms is the sound of a band toying with emotion; demonstrating a landslide of anger, self-deprecation and loss through tightly composed, unconcealed melodies. Right from the start, it’s clear this isn’t the sound of a band on their way out, far from it. Menomena are growing into something fiercely distinguished.
Opener ‘Plumage’ may initially seem like a by-numbers affair but it’s one that displays the band’s signature sound like a trophy. Hearing these words for the first time over a crunch of guitar and handclaps feels like a celebration of something you’d thought to be lost: “Animal / I’m nothing more than an animal / In search of another animal / To take and claim as my own”. It’s optimistically tuneful, lyrically wry and paves the way for an album of bittersweet genius (“I once was tragically hip and beautifully fine / Now my beautiful hips are tragically wide”) with repeat listens something of lyrical treasure hunt.
While Mines saw the band building on a sense of detachment and meditative song progression, Moms is an upfront confessional, delicately illustrating a thematic look at the duo’s relationships with their parents, namely... their mothers. ‘Heavy Is As Heavy Does’ acts as the core of this record, a beautiful piano-led piece sung by Justin Harris like an excerpt from a tortured diary entry: “Heavy all the branches that hang from my fucked up family tree / And heavy was my father, a stoic man of pride and privacy”. Harris’s melancholy casts a cathartic spell on the listener only emphasised by the tornado of sax and guitar that tops its bittersweet conclusion.
Brent Knopf’s departure has seemingly been compensated by a welcome elevation of their wind and brass instrumentation; Harris’ baritone sax barges through the mix taking a far more prominent presence throughout compared to previous records. Album highlight ‘Pique’ shows off this crazed experimentation best, lending the song a soaring edge as Harris screams out “Now I’m a failure / Cursed with male genitalia / A parasitic fuck with no clue as to what men do”.
If the band keeps up this string of consistency, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be considered one of America’s best working indie bands. Where many seek to recycle the sounds of the past, Menomena have an evident artistic sincerity; there is real emotion on show here and that’s something never to take for granted.