Menomena - Moms - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Menomena - Moms

by James Bray Rating:7.5 Release Date:2012-09-18

Despite problematic band relations during the recording process and the rolling divorce of the subsequent tour, Menomena's last album, Mines, was a big critical success. Inevitably, however, the boho-infighting continued post-tour, resulting in the departure of multi-instrumentalist Brent Knopf, who has gone on to form Ramona Falls.

Menomena were always a band of ideas men and songwriters; always full of reluctant frontmen who swapped instruments and shared singing duties. The lack of a clear leader and the overly democratic approach led to tension within the band, in turn leading to the Knopf's departure. The Menomena dynamic is still there between remaining founding members, Harris and Knopf, but the band has lost something.

On Moms, Menomena are as arty and playful as ever, sounding something like garage Genesis or The Flaming Lips of the Pacific Northwest. Initially, the record sounds like classic alt-rock, like Moms would be really successful if this was 1995. That kind of sound is appropriate really, given that the band spent their early years listening to Nirvana and The Smashing Pumpkins. As Moms goes on, you move past the 90s rock scene foreground and see that the record is about nostalgia, family, heritage, decline and succession.

In their lyrics the band focus on the disparity between lofty emotional sentiments and basic human impulses. This motif is usally accentuated by a loud/quiet dynamic à la Pixies. The only problem is that drummer Danny Seim's vocals can be indistinct or overly plaintive ("Heavy is as heavy does"), but the choruses are usually big enough to get over this minor set-back.

Moving into their mid-30s, the band are reflecting on where they came from, where they're going and what they've spent their life doing. Seim meditates on chasing impulses, gratification and skate-kid highs: "I was a monster once, but now I'm calm, now I'm tame" in 'Don't mess with Las Texas'. The lyrics are confessional and analytical, which can lead to convoluted song structures, as it's difficult to get things to rhyme with "morally ambiguous" or "sychophant".

Moms will take you from teeny Hawaii (where Seim spent his childhood) to suburban Oregon, to Portland's art scene and back again. Although Menomena have lost an important contributor in Knopf, they've produced another consistently impressive record full of bright ideas and catchy melodies.

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