Menomena - Moms

Heavy and heavenly, ‘Moms’ is a phe-menomena-l return.

Label: Barsuk

Rating: 8

Since the release of the brilliant ‘Mines’ co-founder Brent Knopf has departed Menomena. It means Justin Harris and Danny Seim have been left to create the maternally-motivated ‘Moms’.

And maybe that’s a good thing. Because, though ‘Mines’ was a spectacular record, it was at a time Seim and Knopf had just gone through divorces while Harris was seeing a therapist. The conflict within the band was also clearly visible – and well documented.

‘Moms’ sees the remaining, harmonious duo splitting songwriting duties evenly between them. And, with the lyrical focus on family life, this record is their most personal, powerful and cathartic yet. Sonically, as well, they’ve pushed their sound further to fill the space Knopf vacated, which means more sax, flutes and cello (and what sounds like rusty springs on Giftshoppe).

From the opening handclaps of ‘Plumage’ and its sax freakout, the slithering bass of ‘Baton’ and ‘Heavy Is As Heavy Does’’ apocalyptic climax, this is a powerful and scintillating ride. The latter features the line ‘Heavy are the branches hanging from my fucked up family tree,’ unmistakably showing us the family issues that lie at the heart of this record.

The confident swagger of the bass on ‘Baton’ belies a sad story ‘I wish that wrecking fantasies could pass for a career.’ As usual for the band there’s also dark humour at play. Just take the titles of tracks ‘Skintercourse’ and ‘Don’t Mess With Latexas’ (the latter’s skittering horse galloping beat is fantastic and seeing Justin singing about ‘Drunken breath though you’re half my age’). Capsule, meanwhile, features the line ‘Like a nervous random stranger at a glory hole.’

It’s the unusual sounds that help to life the album even higher. ‘Giftshoppe’ is heavenly, using brass and high vocals and then goes off-road for the second half of the song with the sound of those springs in the background. ‘Tanatulas’ is built on finger clicks, otherworldly backing vocals and woozy keyboards.

On final track, ‘One Horse’ – with its lyrics about a ‘Sister sobbing in the kitchen’ and ‘Making a son out of me’ – a stately piano march is engulfed in a sea of noise before giving ways to whispers. And maybe that’s what family life is about. It seems to perfectly capture the calm and storms of family life; both the understanding and misunderstanding; the appreciation, and the engrained resentment. Heavy and heavenly, ‘Moms’ is, dare I say it, a phe-menomena-l return.