Menomena | 02.26.13

menomenaWhen you have such fine ingredients, you make a tasty dish indeed.


menomena 500

Firebird, St. Louis

The members of Guards entered the stage heads down and all business, quietly fiddled with their instruments, took a breath to settle in as if there would be a lazy, rambling start to the set, and then—boom—hit the crowd with an explosion of sound. They powered through songs such as “Silver Lining” and “Not Supposed To” like a force of nature, especially on “Nightmare” which at several times slowed down and then crashed back to life like a thunderstorm.

Guards is like ’60s fuzzed-out hippie beach pop having an orgy with some ’80 s new wave and classic and punk rock. The influence of heavy metal on lead vocalist and guitarist Richie Folin is much more evident in their live show than on the album, in both sound and performance. Folin has a “relationship” with the guitar: hugging it, sweeping it over his head to strum it, brandishing it like an Uzi toward the crowd, and rubbing it against the cymbals of the drum kit and even the rafters above the stage. He also knows how to play the hell out of it.

I spent most of their set completely transfixed by drum Ted Humphrey, and no, not just because he’s easy on the eyes. You could hardly see his face behind the wall of his hair. I am talking about his actual drumming, which is a thing of wonder and perfectly restrained at all the right moments. Actually, I would say timing and restraint are a lot of what make Guards as a whole really interesting to watch and listen to. In Guards We Trust is a must listen.

There was always a respectable crowd during Guards’ set, especially for a Tuesday night, and the numbers swelled by the time Menomena took the stage. Obviously, the band has been successful at courting an indie fan base, and I have the feeling that I was one of a handful of people not all that familiar with the band. I did overhear one newcomer like myself on the phone with her dad, explaining how her friend was introducing her to their music and singing the song made famous by The Muppets, “Mah Nà Mah Nà.”

It became quite clear, quite quickly what it is that has won over the allegiance of those folks in the audience; Menomena makes intelligent, danceable music that cannot be pigeonholed or compared to anyone else. They are wholly unique and I am finding it difficult to describe their sound, so the best I can do is rattle off a grocery list of items that they have in their bag: strong beats, a romantic nature, playful experimentation, MIDI samples, a good dose of handsome, a tasty baritone, soulful saxaphone, and thoughtful, often witty lyrics. When you have such fine ingredients, you make a tasty dish indeed.

All of the songs I recognized in their set were off of the new LP Moms, including the tune that won me over, “Plumage.” If you are unfamiliar with Menomena, the hilarious video for this song is a great place to start and gives you a good feel for what they do. “I once was tragically hip and beautifully fine/ Now my beautiful hips are tragically wide.” That line alone was enough to win me over, make me search out more from them, and pay attention to what they’ll do next. | Janet Rhoads

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