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*WE’RE BACK* Menomena: Mines

by on October 17, 2010


To be honest, I didn’t realize that many people knew about Menomena…and that was a good thing, because so often in music the more popular a band becomes, the more “mainstream” a category a band is placed in, the less different that band’s sound becomes. That’s why I never spoke of my LOVE of Menomena, whether it was I Am the Fun Blame Monster! or Under an Hour, I have always thought of Menomena as one of the greatest, most underrated bands of the decade! And Mines does not disappoint.Menomena has always consisted of Brent Knopf, Justin Harris, Danny Seim, but more recently Menomena has added Joe Haege of Tu Fawning. Although the most prominent voice one hears on all albums is that of Brent Knopf, no member of the band has a specific instrument, and all members share the job of singing. This method of musicianship is sported by many bands, but very few succeed in accomplishing a fluid sound with it; Menomena accomplishes just that, Menomena produces an individualistic sound not like much else out there.

The origins of Menomena stem from 2000 when Harris, Seim, and Knopf all got together and just began playing; eventually the band began to get a footing for their sound, and soon after that the recordings of their songs found their way onto CD’s. These CD’s, then, turned into an album, and that album was I Am the Fun Blame Monster!, an anagram for “The First Menomena Album”. And it was the first album of more to come for Menomena, soon Menomena would gain critical acclaim for their sound, going on tours with such bands as The National, being nominated for the Grammy for Best Recording Package for Friend and Foe, and releasing a great instrumental album/EP : Under an Hour and Wet and Rusting.

If you are new to Menomena then here is what you can do to get familiar with the band. Start with Mines, their new album, and work your way back, for as time went on Menomena’s sound got more sophisticated, and yet, more accessible to the public, a very hard thing to do. Menomena’s recent album is in no way a sell out, it is, in fact, one of the few albums out there worth money! Try searching for this type of sound from another modern band, it won’t happen, you will find great bands, but none of them will have this sound.

Mines, or any Menomena album really, consists of beautiful vocals, vocals that give off an air of depression, but at the same time the sound of a patriarchal figure in one’s life. Then comes the bass, I’m a sucker for bass, perhaps I am biased, but the bass in Mines just works so well into the music, working on the higher octaves of the bass is rare in the bassist community, it’s a risk, and the risk pays off in Mines.  If you are searching for a good example of this, check out “Queen Black Acid”, the first track off of Mines.

Of course, what band isn’t complete without some of that good ol’ electric guitar? There really doesn’t need to be much said about the guitar in Mines, not because it’s bad, but because it’s perfect! Honestly, in music it’s not always what’s played, but what’s not played. The guitar is a perfect example of this, with such precision and timing it’s a wonder where it comes from, popping in and out of earshot at just the right moments.

Then comes the usage of other instruments not common to modern music, the use of trombones, trumpets, and especially the saxophone  in all of Menomena’s albums really completes it for me. Only true bands in the history of music have come to terms with the fact that horn music can add so much, think of a little band called The Beatles if you need an example…

There are other instruments to be discussed…but I’m too lazy, they speak for themselves. Mines is really a special album, and although it’s not great for pump up music or anything of that nature, it is a beautiful compilation from a great band. A pleasure to listen to.

*Gems: “Queen Black Acid”, “Five Little Rooms”,  “INTIL”, “TAOS”


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