Bands break up. Line-ups change. Members move on. It’s something any long-time music lover or addict has had to learn to cope with. As much as I love The Evens, Wild Flag, or Past Lives their music will never be that of Fugazi, Sleater-Kinney or Blood Brothers. The surviving/resulting projects are not worse, not better, just some of the same members, a few years older, making music with a different vibe. So to hear that two out of three members of Menomena were continuing on with the band despite Brent Knopf’s departure, it’s natural to expect a complete change in musical approach.
Here’s the deal: Menomena’s entire discography is based around the idea of three distinct music personalities merging their interests. The trio was distinctly set apart from most other bands by their democratic approach to music, with Knopf going as far as to create a turn-based recording software to encourage such collaboration. So of course, taking one person out of the equation would change the output drastically. However, Moms, the fifth full-length release by Menomena proves that the process and approach behind the band is just as crucial as the members themselves. In short, it’s an awesome record that feels much larger than the two people who worked to create it.
Sticking first to musical quality alone, Danny Seim and Justin Harris have created a solid collection of 10, cohesive grooves. Just as in Menomena’s past, the record mixes acoustic and electronic aesthetics by layering live instrumentals in a fantastical manner. Propelled largely by deep piano chords, crunchy strumming patterns, funky bass loops and tom-heavy thumping, Moms wields an arsenal of aural surprises.
Yet what makes Moms stand out against past Menomena releases is the lyrical content. While their discography is full of gems, this collection of songs carries the most personal and emotional content of any of their records. In writing his lyrics, Seim focused on the absence of a mother throughout most of his life, while Harris in turn reflected upon his experience being raised by a single mother. The stark contrast between and emotional intensity of both subjects takes the listener on quite the ride, bearing lines that range from “I wish I could remember if my last words were sincere” to “Heavy are the branches hanging from my fucked up family tree.” So, even while enjoying funky, textured fields of sound, one can’t escape how deeply personal the duo gets.
All in all, Moms is an outstanding addition to the Menomena discography. Artistic creative process? Check. Great sonic and dimensional results? Check. Only one important question remains: Just how are they going to play this live?