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Meneguar - Strangers in Our House

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Artist: Meneguar

Album: Strangers in Our House

Label: Troubleman Unlimited

Review date: Dec. 6, 2007

Strangers in Our House is an oddly upbeat, life-affirming albums about alienation and disaffection. Musically, it could hardly be more positive. Every shouted chorus punches its fist in the air. Every raggedy riff and machine gun drum fill zings with triumphant energy. There’s not much melody, even in the vocals, because everything is rhythm, a straight-to-the- vein rush of jittery adrenaline. It’s like a post-punk triple espresso, cranked like Go Forth-era Les Savy Fav.

Only once your pulse starts skittering do you notice how anxious Strangers in our House is, lyrically speaking. These are anthems for people on the wrong end of sub-prime America, expensively educated and going nowhere, temping at ad agencies and investment banks, living in dead-end roommate shares and realizing that “You’re the most expensive thing you own.” With its eighth notes scrubbed up and down on the guitar, Strangers in Our House turns into a one-legged, spastic jitterbug of late 20s dashed expectations. It inhabits a life stage when people are changing so rapidly that you better “stay armed with photographs” and watch yourself on the VCR if you want to remember who you are.

Strangers in the House is Meneguar’s second full-length, the follow-up to widely-praised I Was Born at Night which was first released on Magic Bullet in 2005, then reissued on Troubleman last year. The main complaint with the debut was its brevity; at seven songs and 25 minutes it seemed a bit short of a definitive statement. Here with the second album, the band delivers similar intensity over a more extended outing. The songs are constructed out of the same materials – an abrasive jangle of guitar, frenetic drums and a series of jump-cut nervy choruses – yet remain fresh. Despite a cohesion that might turn monotonous, you don’t say, “Oh, that again” but rather “what exactly are they going to do with it this time?”

Plus there’s a zeitgeist-nailing line in almost every song, spat out in terse syllables to clamped down guitars and clattery drums. “Falling through the bathroom floor / You get what you want when you don’t want it anymore,” in first single “Bury a Flower,” “Let’s invest in what keeps us down,” in “Living in the White,” “You shed a little width for so much depth,” in “Scrape and a Pull.” Everything’s about compromise, disappointment, the wrong people getting ahead, and yet none of these lyrics are a downer. They’re rattled off too fast to sink in, battered with jumpy drums, and so communal that you’re tempted to shout along. It’s a jarring mix of emotions that these songs elicit, a blend of triumph and disillusion, hedonism and to-the-bone cynicism, and maybe that’s intentional. If you can dance to your worst fears, even spasmodically, have they really got you anymore?

By Jennifer Kelly

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