If there’s a Venn diagram out there combining the shimmering psychadelia of the Flaming Lips, the experimentation of TV on the Radio and the fractured rhythms of mid-era Deerhoof, Menomena’s latest album, Friend and Foe, would occupy the delicious intersection. Though this statement might seem like an absurd exercise in rudimentary mathematics and name-dropping, Friend and Foe deserves every bit of praise the heavenly combination would imply. It’s simply a fabulous little album, in danger of being overlooked by fickle chorus fiends.
Throughout the album, Menomena deconstruct conventional pop structures and mess with listeners’ expectations. This keeps Friend or Foe surprising and offers a wealth of head-turning moments. Impressively, Menomena never use experimentation for weirdness’ sake. Instead, every aural diversion serves a distinct purpose and never outstays its welcome. Keeping with this self-scrutiny, Friend and Foe contains nothing even approximating filler. The album shines from its first manic drum beat through its demonstration on how to play the saxophone as if it were a bass, to its final lovely little piano arpeggio.
The album’s only real weakness is how much Menomena expect from their listeners. Friend and Foe is at its best through headphones in a dark corner of a dark room where it can gradually take over the world. This probably isn’t everyone’s definition of a good time and some will be turned off by the amount of effort required to understand it. For those that can slug through though, Friend and Foe’s payoffs are as sublime as John Venn’s diagram is useful.