Ask and ye shall receive
A little under a week ago I inquired about the fate of Menomena, the audio merchants behind one of 2004’s better albums (I Am the Fun Blame Monster). I’d like to think my post beamed my curiosity into Scott Stereogum‘s brain and fingers, resulting in a post about the band’s forthcoming third (!) release. Backing up the truck a bit, I guess they released the instrumental-only Under an Hour earlier this year to minimal acclaim, as well as an EP called Wet and Rusting. It serves more as a primer to their upcoming release, Friend and Foe, than an EP proper, and its contents have captured my interest.
The title track (which also appears on Friend) plunges listeners into someone’s disjointed, restless mind mulling over the details of their lovelife. Elements appear and are ripped away, knocked over and out of rhythm, surprised with new elements, and all together combined in ways that challenge traditional song structure. “I made you a present / you never expected” drummer Danny Seim utters playfully, acknowledging the slightly unstable nature of the deep synth swells coming and going, skittering sounds crawling in listeners ears; then he halts. A plaintive piano chimes in as he admits, “It’s hard to take risks / with a pessimist,” and is interrupted by a few sudden acoustic strums.
The song comes into bloom a less than a minute in, pitting those same strums against an absentminded glockenspiel and eventually introduces rushed drums — it’s calmly claustrophobic in waves. The aesthetic isn’t much different from most of I Am…, though the punchy bari sax is noticeably and thoughtfully absent. “Wet and Rusting” climaxes as a second voice finishes the excellent counter lyrics “This is the /closest I’ll come to / touching you the / way I want to” with a barrage of snare drum and excited strumming. Things have evened out now, the rhythmic elements have figured each out like thoughts well sorted and prepared. Seim sings “It’s hard to be faithful” (the other voice chimes in “with a pessimist,” and even though it’s completing “it’s hard to take risks” it sounds excellent minced together) and only a few bars later the song disappears — someone else has walked into the room and our thoughtful host is needed elsewhere.
I wish “Walking,” another track from the same EP, was worth as many words. The juxtaposition of either Justin Harris or Brent Knopf (it’s not Seim is all I know) singing along with an electric piano, both sounding like they’ve got key signature issues, is awkward and unpleasant. With lyrics of “hunting, gathering,” “that’s no way to make amends,” “struggle for position” and something about a trust fund, “Walking” might be an absurdist’s commentary on human evolution. Either way, it doesn’t make for a compelling track; and luckily for those of us anticipating Friend and Foe (due out 1/23/07 on Barsuk), it won’t be included.
Audio: Menomena, “Wet and Rusting”