Menomena’s musical hash is some of the most interesting stuff you’re likely to hear. The Portland-based trio creates its mix ‘n’ match pop anthems in a decidedly peculiar way: Deeler, a computer program created by drummer Danny Seim, creates loops out of short improvised riffs that each member comes up with. These loops are assembled into some peculiar, but undeniably catchy, shapes.
Comparisons have been made to TV on the Radio, and these sentiments have some weight. Both acts have a knack for taking innovative approaches to songwriting while maintaining recognizable hooks. Where the bands differ, however, is that Menomena makes use of a broader musical pool in the process, which makes the band’s ability to turn its divergent pieces into a coherent whole all the more impressive. “Evil Bee” starts off with some acoustic strumming but eventually adds everything from jazzy sax to glockenspiel without spoiling the track.
The band churns out dozens of overtly bizarre transitions like that over the course of Friend and Foe, but the album’s finest moments occur when Menomena more or less sticks to an idea before adding a surprising flourish at a crucial moment. The finest example of this occurs on opener “Muscle ‘n Flo.” The track builds steam with crashing drums and thrashy guitar riffs before transitioning to a quiet interlude-then, suddenly, an organ blast appears. It’s at once unexpected and entirely fitting.
Given that Menomena had produced nothing save a score for a modern dance performance since 2003’s I Am the Fun Blame Monster, it began to seem as though that impressive debut was little more than a fluke. With another solid album now under its belt, Menomena now has to be regarded as one of today’s more intriguing rock outfits.