My fair home city of Portland seems to be enjoying a boom of great underground music. We’ve always had our sporadic surges, most notably riding the regional coattails of Seattle’s early 90’s Grunge craze, but something else has found its way into the musical waters of Portland here in the early 2000s. And it tastes like...respectability.
Shit imitation bands like Everclear and (yes) The Dandy Warhols have been subplanted by The Shins, 31Knots, Sleater-Kinney, and (my current favorite Stumptowners) Menomena.
Their debut album, I am the Fun Blame Monster (an acronym for The First Menomena Album, as you will learn by the kick-ass flipbook artwork) is a melting pot of musical genres, programmed to be some of the most interesting electro-pop songs to come from the underground in a long time. The lead track, Cough Coughing, is an appropriate introduction to the rest of the album. There are recognizable instruments, to be sure, but there is a glitchy stop-and-go rhythm to the song that would have radio DJs scratching their heads. The flagship song The Late Great Libido follows, and proceeds to mark Menomena’s place on the map with authority. Yes, that’s a saxophone, and it’s the most effective use of the instrument since Morphine. Menomena has crafted a pop song worthy of being ranked as one of the best songs of the year. But they don't stop there.
The remainder of the album maintains the originality and power of the first two songs, even opening up the bag of guitar rock on the final track The Monkey’s Back before fading into an eerie, quiet "outro" that would even have Thom Yorke wondering what in the hell was going on. It is easily one of the best records to come out of The Rose City this year...if not the whole damn country. -Eric Morris