Menomena is a band from Portland, Oregon, that is often described as experimental rock. They're not. Actually, they're more conventional than that label might lead you to believe -- and that's a good thing. In fact, at times on their new record, Mines, they come off as a straight-up rock band, laying down some fairly potent '70s-style classic heavy rock -- like Jack White jamming with The Who.
Where Menomena differs from its more conventional brethren is the band's seemingly stream-of-consciousness lyrics and the way in which its songs are constructed: using instrumental loops recorded during band jams and then painstakingly piecing them together using computer software.
Their methodology alone could easily turn off fans who prefer a more organic form of songwriting, but Menomena's results are seamless. They sound like a big rock band, certainly more than just three guys. I'm not sure how they replicate the feat in a live setting -- perhaps auxiliary musicians or pre-recorded backing music. After just two listens, I know there are a lot more sonic treasures to discover on Mines.
In the end, what I really like about this record is the point where esoteric musical ideas, along with top-notch musicianship, intersect with gut-level rocking. No band in history did that better than The Who. I'm not saying Menomena are the next Who (or anything close to it) but I do think they are making some pretty cool music.
Best song: "Taos," the song posted above. Rotation: Medium-high Deja Vu: One of the more unique bands I've heard this year. I'd rather listen to: I'm really digging the Sparklehorse & Danger Mouse collaboration released earlier this month. Grade: B+
"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 41-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.
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