Say “Menomena” to yourself. What do you think of? Is it Italian composer Piero Umiliani’s song made famous by The Muppets? Well, friends, today we’re talkin’ about a very different Menomena, one of the inventive, indie rock variety.
The Portland-based band formed as the trio of Justin Harris, Andy Seim and Brent Knopf around late 2000. There’ve been different interpretations of where the band’s onomatopoeic name came from. The most obvious etymology is the above-mentioned song “Mah Nà Mah Nà.” The band’s been pretty coy about it, so it maybe something as simple as they liked the sound of it. They released their debut record I Am the Fun Blame Monster! (the album’s name is actually an anagram of “The First Menomena Album”–go ahead check it out) on the Portland indie label FILMguerrero. The band recorded the album using a custom-coded looping program created by Knopf, and its packaging featured a flipbook of the band putting their instruments through their paces. Their 2006 sophomore album Under An Hour was somewhat of a left-turn (from a band known for left-turns). The record was a three-movement score for a modern dance performance by the Portland-based troupe Monster Squad. Their third full-length (and first on Seattle’s Barsuk label) Friend and Foe followed in 2007, and Mines in 2008.
Knopf amicably left the group after the release of Mines to focus on his solo project Ramona Falls. Seim and Harris carried on Menomena, and crafted their next record as a duo. The result is Moms, a very personal record about Harris’s and Seim’s own mothers that still manages to preserve Menomena’s signature quirkiness. The band recorded today’s song “Toomer” during the Moms sessions. It didn’t make it to the final tracklist, but it’s seeing new life as a digital single. The lyrics may be on the dour side, and the vocals a bit narcotic, but the backing track is head-bobbingly groovy, synth-y pop with a very slight dub feel. It’s unexpected–something that probably should be expected of Menomena.
(and by the way, is that Piero Umiliani song stuck in your head yet?)