I caught them at the bouncy-floored Crystal Ballroom in Portland during Musicfest NW when they launched their US tour. During the fest, Willamette Week broke a cover story detailing that the band's three core members couldn't stand being around each other and posed the question that this might be their fourth and final album. Despite this and the toils of the road, four and a half weeks later they're still playing with brilliance, creating inescapable, intricate soundscapes that are at once breathtaking and infectious.
Before Menomena took the stage, Tu Fawning won over some fans and perplexed others with their dark layers that are, in their simplicity, lush and alive. The balanced collective of four multi-instrumentalists—including Joe Haege, who's been joining Menomena onstage this tour—played cuts from their brand new release Hearts on Hold that has a two-note trumpet triumphantly blasting over marching drums and brooding lyrics—"Multiply a House." Not every audience is receptive to four-part vocal harmonies over a four-part tambourine accompaniment, but the Urban crowd definitely fell for it. The short, poignant set ended with their single, "The Felt Sense," with all four playing percussion.
Lanky drummer Seim continually beat the hell out of his set, which wore the abuses of the road with a cracked crash cymbal. However, each musician played perfectly, like magicians continually blowing you away, leaving you wondering how they pull it all off together. Knopf took the mic for "Killemall" and the crowd cheered (he seemed to be their favorite, especially obvious when he later sang "Wet and Rusting").
The lighting got clever and animated to accompany "BOTE" and Harris smiled at the unexpected surprise. Afterwards, Harris gave thanks to the audience, which continued repeatedly throughout the night. Other highlights include "Go Home" with Seim on vocals. Without really leaving the stage, they left the audience with "Strongest Man in the World" as the encore. Whether it be smooth builds, odd time signatures or acute detail to sound, Menomena delivered a near-perfect 90-minute set.
So, is the band on better terms after the tour. By reading body language, I would have to say not. Seim continually made passive "Ba Dum Chishhhhhh" rim shots whenever Harris told a joke and the two had darting eyes towards one another several times. Knopf can't make up his mind about which side his hair is parted on (one song left, the next right) let alone where he stands amidst all the chaos. But, perhaps, the underlying ticking time bomb and social dysfunction are what make Menomena great. Let's just hope we don't have to wait around another three plus years for the next album (if there is one).