Menomena's music has always been a little weird. Heck, they even wrote a song called "Weird," which was…weird. Their first album,I Am The Fun Blame Monster (an anagram for "The First Menomena Album") was created by recording pieces of music into a software the band created, and looping it back, adding more parts as the song went on. It was lo-fi and messy, a trend that would continue on the upbeat but more complex follow-up, Friend And Foe. Often on that album, and even more so on the relatively clear and higher-fi third album, Mines, songs were built from a simple drumbeat with sparkling piano, walls of saxophone, distorted guitar, and then even more drums that rumbled and crashed and disappeared suddenly only to and reappear just as quickly.
After Mines though, songwriter and guitarist/pianist Brent Knopf left the band, taking most of the darker and gentler songs in the band's catalog with him. What is left is now on display on Moms, the bands fourth album; while it’s still recognizable as a Menomena album, it rocks much harder than anything they've done before.
The album opens more boldly than anything before it, with the song "Plumage," full of handclaps, guitar, a buzzing synthesizer, and lyrics about drifting away from an old lover. The song builds like many previous Menomena songs, but at two minutes, it breaks into a saxophone and guitar jam, as bold and loud as anything they've ever done. "Capsule," the song immediately after, follows suit, with an obnoxiously noisy guitar that cuts in and out over a funky drum beat and bass line. The album continues in a similar fashion, often tense lyrically, but with layers of different instrumental textures that just barely fit together to add up to a warm, heavy sound. A band that was occassionally minimalistic, is no longer. "Baton" in particular, sung by drummer Danny Seim, features twinkling pianos, guitar strums, distant vocals, and a pretty melody tied together by a tight, strong beat that all adds up to something that is -dare we say it - mid-fi?
On "Heavy Is As Heavy Does," probably the most restrained of all the songs on Moms, the album takes a bit of a shift. Singer Justin Harris sings about his distant, cold father, as a light piano chord is slowly backed by synth bass and a funk beat, eventually being dominated by spooky, wailing slide guitars. The rest of the album follows suit with songs like "Giftshoppe" which is more restrained and built on soft piano (like much of this album) backed by wobbling synthesizers, and "Skintercourse,” a track carried by sparse guitar and lively piano chords.
"Don't Mess With Latexas" marks the last bold moment on the album, as a skittery drum pattern repeats under building sweeps of guitar and distant saxophones, full of reverb. It's creepy and jumpy, but not as adventurous as what came before it. The slow, sad "One Horse" ends the album, and sounds a lot like the songs that close all of Menomena's other albums, especially the tense "West" from
Friend and Foe. A maudlin track drenched in reverb, “One Horse” builds to a shaky crescendo then ends with an odd, noisy instrumentalwhimper, offering no real conclusion to the song, or the album. All in all, Moms is more bold and harder-rocking than any previous effort by the band, and though it marks a change in Menomena's style it doesn't stray too far from their odd, funky roots.