Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Significant Albums: Menomena - I Am the Fun Blame Monster! (2003)


I've been sitting on this blurb for a few days and I need to finally just do it.

I was introduced to Menomena in 2007 I recall when their new record Friend and Foe was buzzing a bit and suggested on the dredg fans forum. I remember liking some of what I heard but struggling with them them at the same time. They had a very quirky style of rock music, that didn't grab me right away. But I think part of that was because I hadn't heard this record.

Once I heard this debut album of theirs, I Am the Fun Blame Monster!, I became more won over. For one thing, I absolutely loved their use of piano. So much so, I came to be reminded of all bands, Genesis. Brent Knopf reminded me a lot of Tony Banks, in placing these subtle, intricate little piano phrases into these quirky songs, that somehow gave me goosebumps and at times just became the parts of those songs I looked forward to the most.

So, over time with both this record and Friend and Foe, I came to realize how great this record was. It flows amazingly. The dynamics, use of percussion, production, textures like Mellotron if I recall, and other parts totally stood out. Another big part was how they used saxophone.

Sax is not a commonly used instrument in rock. Here and there, namely with Bruce Springsteen and even King Crimson at times (or Jethro Tull some may recall). King Crimson in particular, I came to hear as an influence with Menomena. I'm not certain how much exactly, but from memory when I spoke to both Justin Harris and Danny Seim at some of the shows I saw them in the past few years, I seem to recall asking them about Crimson and them saying they were fans.

Specifics with this record, and like many of these records that are so significant, I find this is another album that works best all at once. Or is greater than the sum of its parts so-to-speak. But songs like "Rose," and "The Late Great Libido," "Cough Coughing," "Strongest Man in the World," "E is Stable," and maybe my favorite track, the nearly 9 minute closing piece "The Monkey's Back" which features Brent Knopf's vocals, driving guitar riffs and what sounds like a combination of an organ and especially wonderful, mellotron patch.

But I wouldn't throw away a second of this album. It is a very complete work, even down to the title, which is an anagram for "The First Menomena Album" to the extensive packaging, which as you flip through the 80-page booklet, it can be flipped-through like a cartoon almost, with the artwork. Some have been given the impression of how young they were, with song titles and their silly, quirky style. But I honestly find it to be unique and a big part of their and this album's charm.

There really isn't another band who sounds like them, nor this album. The at times not-taking-themselves-too-seriously, to at times sounding incredibly emotional and deep/serious and almost sad, comes across throughout this record. It's definitely an album that if it connects with you, it may surprise you. In that you listen to it, and after wards are a surprised how much it can stay with you. And not just on a musical level, but sort of a mood/message/emotional thought-provoking way. Kind of like, what the hell did I just listen to? and wow, I feel like I just woke up from a dream or finished a best selling children's story; like Where the Wild Things Are or Peter Pan or something.

Menomena's 1st album clearly was the culmination of many years of refining song ideas from all 3 members (including lead vocals from all 3, in sort of a Beatles-kind of way. The member who sings lead vocals, I've kind of believed was the main songwriter from said song. And each member has a pretty distinct voice, so it's not hard to distinguish). However, on this debut record of theirs, they showed how they were a 3-headed monster of rather skilled songwriters, and especially on this 1st album, many of their best ideas came and worked together extremely well.

I revisit this record every so often, and every time I think I have finally heard them do something better, albeit the present Menomena, Brent Knopf's now full-time band Ramona Falls, or any of their other work, I keep being denied, in that this was a special record that just happened to be made as their 1st work. And it certainly stands up as many years later, and remains one of my favorite albums of the 2000's as well as all-time.