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Menomena - I Am The Fun Blame Monster

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Artist: Menomena

Album: I Am The Fun Blame Monster

Label: FILMguerrero

Review date: Oct. 6, 2004

Menomena is a trio – no other musicians are credited on I Am The Fun Blame Monster, and our triumvirate only gets photos. Yet, the grooves boast the sort of small orchestra that would make a gifted school’s band director wince with envy. Menomena’s melodies shuffle and ramble, obscuring the hooks. The band speaks jazz and hip hop fluently, but you wouldn’t know it until the third or fourth date. Song titles include “The Monkey’s Back” and “The Late Great Libido.” I Am The Fun Blame Monster is an Eno-style anagram, in case you don’t look for that kind of thing. Oh! And it comes with a flipbook! Indeed, on the surface, everything about these bastards is too clever by half.

Halfway through “Cough Coughing,” it sounds like Menomena is sufficed to be another anonymous Can tribute band. I wouldn't blame you for hitting "eject" and run off to the Concretes, or something less academically correct. You’d miss out, though.

Tune two, “The Late Great Libido” commences what I’ll henceforth consider I Am The Fun Blame Monster proper. Some Ben Folds chopsticks wind their way into something as ominous and sad as the finest geek-pop to ever grace college radio. Cheeky piano rolls taper off into reverb, ushering in even more cheeky horns that do nothing to dispel the calm gloom at the tune’s heart. Like the shopping channel and talk radio blaring in unison at four in the morn, the rush of trifles in “The Late Great Libido” only makes its frustrated melancholia more poignant. It may be brilliant, but cute, it ain’t.

And that’s how I Am The Fun Blame Monster, on the whole, succeeds. While it makes no effort to conceal its intellect, it solicits an under-the-table emotional connection the Seas and Cakes of the indiesphere simply will not allow. As with all decent brainy pop, feeling slides in undercover of affect.

“The Late Great Libido” alone would be one of 2004’s most memorably polished gems, even if the disc’s balance failed to maintain that striking reversal. But the intensity seldom drops. “E Is Stable” stashes a slow, aching groan of a song inside dueling guitar and piano hooks, either one of which would stick out on a They Might Be Giants record. “Strongest Man In The World” sounds like a collage of maritime distress signals floating over a lurching Bonham backbeat, then retreats into a numb, funky Antarctic that could’ve come from a Kranky/Big Dada joint release.

I’ll be pleasantly surprised, should I Am The Fun Blame Monster not prove 2004’s most surefooted debut. Expect harrowing things.

By Emerson Dameron

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