You know, Menomena probably doesn’t get the respect they deserve. The band is fresh off three critically acclaimed albums in a row, but their fourth, Mines, has been almost invisible in terms of pre-hype. But maybe that’s what the band wants; their songs have always been instrumentally labyrinthine and lyrically byzantine, and that’s something you’d expect out of a collective of musicians who thrive on isolation. Hell, you can’t even find an album title or band name anywhere in Mines‘s packaging. One gets the feeling that Menomena would rather be discovered than simply listened to.
Despite all that obscurity, though, Mines is thoroughly what one has come to expect from Menomena: an album that is titanic in scope, filled with offbeat wordplay, and entangled instruments. The band is still in their comfort zone here, which, as always, exists in the zany, post-prog outside lands. “Taos” encompasses jangly, bar-rock piano, gilded choirs, biological, handclap percussion, and a theatrical, two-act trajectory; it’s the sort of thing the band has spent their career perfecting, and at this point they’ve got it down to a science. The band has a way of uniting stadium-sized swells with a thinking man’s songwriting, U2’s bombast with Radiohead’s swagger. Every one of these songs is overstuffed in the best way possible, with massive guitars, pummeling drum rolls, bubbly electronics, and pulpy brass—all in the same three minutes, and all sounding entirely in place.
Menomena’s lyrics have always ranged from cutely dumb to overtly melodramatic, like on “Tithe”: “Spending the best years of a childhood horizontal on the floor, like a bobsled, minus the teamwork or the televised support.” These kinds of off-kilter runs may have a silly appeal, but they’re a little insubstantial. It’s almost like the band is trying to fool the listener into thinking they’re meaningful just because they’re weird. But any gripes about redundancy or lyrical absurdity are dwarfed when you simply let the music speak for itself—universal but never sacrificing an ounce of its experimental wit.