Menomena is neither Friend nor Foe. Discuss.
Welcome to Coffee Talk. I'm your host Jumbo Slice. Instead of the standard review, we're having a round table discussion of Menomena and Illinois. The evening was unique since we were accompanied by a reporter and Washington Post photographer (don't go looking for that article any time soon). The media attention was fun, but the concert provided the real highlights. Let's dive right in...
Topic One: Illinois
Jumbo Slice: I liked when the Menomena dude was playing sax w/ Illinois. The sound was really deep and heavy, like an air horn. I really thought Illinois was good. Of course, I had pretty low expectations. The band really can rock out. Too bad they'll always be held back by their singer.
Potsy: Yeah, unlike the Spoon show where some extra horns weren't necessarily a good thing, a little extra horn worked out well for Illinois. I was happy to see Illinois perform better, and rather than harp on what a toolbag Chris Archibald can be, I'd like to congratulate him on toning it down a bit this time. He's still a toolbag, but at the end of the show I actually did introduce myself to him, and tell him I thought they were better than last time at the RnRH. I was a little drunk, so I figured I was allowed. I asked him if his sister was in the crowd (hearkening back to the misguided "for he's a jolly good fellow" fiasco). Archibald said she was in fact there, but that he spared her the embarrassment this time around. He spared himself the embarrassment too. Illinois is frat rock, but it could evolve into something better. They have the right DNA for it, they just need a little time and corrective influences. Maybe Menomena can help.
Jimbromski: Illinois sounded great. Their songs are catchy and well-executed, on the plus side. It's a matter of personal taste, but...catchy and well-executed they may be, but they still sound a little too much like frat-rock to me. They're in danger of becoming the 2007 update of Sugar Ray/311, especially with that faux-rapping-through-the-telephone song they did. It's not a bad song, but again, it sounds like Sugar Ray to me. Other than that song they sounded like a pretty tight hard rock band.
In the end the antics of the lead singer keep me from enjoying this band. His banter was less than last time but he still couldn't contain himself. My biggest impression from this show is that they're not a group of hacks/shoemakers like I thought based on the RNRH show, they do in fact know what they're doing up there. Potsy commented that the sound at the Black Cat was, for once, excellent, and this helped them.
Sacklunch: I still can’t get into the Illinois. The music is pretty good and when we came upstairs they were definitely rocking the joint. That “rap” song thing killed it for me. James comparison to 311 is spot-on. That guy needs to stop trying so hard. We get it, you want to be a rock star and you used to hang out with the Hold Steady. Grow-up.
Jimbromski: Okay, we're all in agreement. Illinois has potential but the lead singer needs a Bas Rutten ass beating:
Topic Two: Menomena
Potsy: Menomena was awesome. I said it before, they played all songs I have been listening to, which made for a pleasingly familiar show, with a
good crowd. Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't we squeeze an extra song out them too? I think at the end of the show the overhead music came on, but the crowd remained, and Menomena came back out, saying something like, "you're supposed to leave when the music comes on." But he didn't say it in a dick-ish way.
Jumbo Slice: You're right about the extra song. I don't think they do the contrived encore thing. If not, they sold it well. I know we've discussed this before, but an encore should nawt [Tommy Wiseau voice] be a given.
Jimbromski: Menomena's music is complicated but still accessible. Lots of tempo changes, different instruments, weird sounds, and yet it all adds up and works. Other bands try this and it comes out sounding like a mess.
I get the feeling these guys took music classes and played all kinds of instruments from an early age. They were probably members of the marching band in high school. This is in contrast to guys who picked up a guitar in high school and then formed a band--usually a sloppy but rocking sound. I guess to my untrained ear Menomena sounds more technically proficient than the average band. I hate to say that b/c bands like that are usually pretentious/arty/crap but Menomena isn't like that.
This is a great band. I usually judge bands by how many melodies/specific songs I can remember after the show. These guys have at least four excellent songs on their album. Most bands are lucky to have 1-2.
Sacklunch: I agree pretty much with everything Jimbromski said. We discussed the whole “complicated yet accessible” thing outside after the show. I think we may have even compared them to a certain band called Radiohead. Not necessarily on the same level, but definitely interesting music that can be a little complex. Highlights of the evening were the 1-2 punch of “Rotten Hell” and “Evil Bee” (the last two songs they played, before the encore) Those are great closers.
Other things I noticed about Menomena. I like how the drummer is a very integral part of that band. He was entertaining to watch.
The bass player/saxophonist always looks a bit uncomfortable and somewhat pained when playing his instruments. He is not the epitome of smooth.
Topic Three: Media Circus
Jumbo Slice: I really enjoyed meeting Ian. It seemed like he was having a great time. The photographer was super nice but it was weird having her constantly snap pictures of us. I didn't mind when it was over. I'm not sure if she got any shots they'll really be able to use. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
Sacklunch: The media circus was kind of annoying for me. I don’t like getting photographed. The candids were okay, but those f—king posed pictures on the stairs and outside were a bit ridiculous. I had no idea that was going to happen. We will have to wait and see what happens with the story.
Jimbromski: We'll see if the article actually sees the light of day. I enjoyed the experience, I felt like a big shot. I tolerated the pictures, but I don't like being posed. I am especially grateful that when she posed us on the stairs, that nobody came up/down the stairs and had to wait for us to finish. That would've been awkward.
Potsy: I'm not one to talk about the article since I'm in the "I'll believe it when I see it" mode. Yeah, it was a bit awkward. I don't like posed photos either. As if we often hang outside against the Black Cat's
brick wall in between sets, like album cover art.
Well, that's all the time we have for today. Next Review: Jorge James.