I Am the Fun Blame Monster, Menomena's debut album, is both all over
the place and impressively controlled. The Portland, Oregon band casts backwards and forwards, dropping in loop-based turntable beats, math-rock figurings and revenant piano. Dramatic and vibrant. Think of it: No waiting until the latter part of your career to reach the combined moment of approachability and irrepressible experimentation that made The Soft Bulletin such a joy
for Flaming Lips fans. What better place for a band to begin?
Brent Knopf, Danny Seim and Justin Harris are indie originators, assembling
Menomena's sound with the help of Deeler, a software program developed by
Knopf. The band members have explained how it allows them to
store sounds during the songwriting process. From the respective recordings, Menomena cut and paste what they like into a final composition that they all agree with (and then rehearse from to play live). While this approach might seem like more of a burden than a technical assist, I Am the Fun Blame Monster! is not hindered by it; instead the technique informs the debut's identity. In fact, this construction distinguishes I Am the Fun Blame Monster! as one of the most original-sounding albums in a long while, delivering on a type of multi-patched music that is not without emotion, like Horns of Happiness or the Minus Story collective. The styles of glitch and hip-hop are as much of an influence as, perhaps, the winged home-recordings of Jeff Mangum.
I Am the Fun Blame Monster! is laden with prizes. It begins with
"Cough Coughing," a lightning drum loop that sets the pace, for the entrance
least, while "White Lines" is a wash of ambient piano and
cryptic lyrics (something about a comfortable chair on a chopping
block?). "Strongest Man in the World" sounds like the time Portishead were backed
by all those musicians at the Roseland ballroom; it ups the ante with recurring
piano, a crashing cymbal and lyrics that conjure up apparitions: "I am fused
out of iron, iron." "Oahu" retreats somewhat with one of those languid
guitar lines that Tortoise used so perfectly on TNT.
I Am the Fun Blame Monster! is accompanied by a flipbook where each
member cleverly shows his chops (and one dons a mask). Not surprisingly there is a little imp behind the debut's title as well. Letters bounce along the
bottom of the page like the return arm of a typewriter to reveal this anagram:
"The First Menomena Album." The real wonder is not how inventive it all is but
how eager typically apathetic indie fans are to be swooped up by it.