Menomena: Mines (Barsuk)

Portland, Ore.'s Menomena is one strange band. An art-pop trio with a case of personality disorder, the band offers a sound that contains moments of pure beauty, madcap experimentation and smashing energy—sometimes within the same track.

Despite some hiccups, Mines is an enjoyable listen. Opener "Queen Black Acid" is a twinkling, thrilling and soaring anthem, a track that uses distortion and cavernous vocals to create an atmosphere of unease and loss.

More intriguing, however, are Menomena's heretofore-unseen steely chops. "TAOS" is a roaring track with revved guitars, crashing drums and earnest bravado ("I'm not the most cocksure guy / but I get more bold with every smile") that would fit in comfortably on classic-rock radio. Similarly, "BOTE" has a hard-charging interplay between thunderous drums and scorching guitar, tempered slightly with funky passages of piano and sax.

Mines, like countless great albums (and as many unfortunate ones) before it, comes from a place of turmoil. The press materials mention that band members were endlessly fighting over the music—alongside a reference to "failed marriages." While there is an undeniable depth to the album, the lyrics are occasionally distracting. Whether it's cryptic, like on the jazzy "Lunchmeat" ("leave the lunchmeat for the sharks"), or silly, like on the atmospherically impressive "Tithe" ("like a bobsled / minus the teamwork / and the televised support"), Menomena seem uncomfortable lyrically working out their emotions.

Despite these quibbles, the band still manages to wring substantial emotion out of the music, which is vibrant and astonishing.


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