Odd-pop trio Menomena have carved an unusual route to indie stardom – how many artist’s recording catalogue include a flip book as packaging, a modern dance score as one of their releases and have worked up their debut on a computer program of their own devising?

With the release of their third album, ‘Friend and Foe’, an eccentric, rhythmic take on the Wall of Sound, the band has become a serious club draw. They weren’t, however, the only reason Zaphod Beeblebrox was jammed on a brisk spring Friday: Sunderland’s Field Music and Montreal’s Land of Talk are hotly tipped bands in their own right, and both could easily have served as headliners.

As it happened, Field Music kicked things off (its three members apparently aren’t aware of the extent they’re appreciated in North America) with a self-described "short set of short songs." They stuck mostly to their new album, ‘Tones of Town’, due to a bass string breaking in the early going. The group’s cheery demeanor and amusing between-songs chatter also buoyed their performance.

That album’s succinct, XTC-influenced pop was nimbly performed by Peter and David Brewis (switching off between guitar and drums) and Andy Moore on keyboards.

Land of Talk are a scrappier proposition than Field Music. Though they share some of Field Music’s 1960's pop influences (particular on the EP, recorded with noted Beach Boys fancier Jace Lasek of Besnard Lakes), they keep their instrumentation down to the basics - guitar, bass and drums - and consequently project a more rocking sound.

Frontwoman Elizabeth Powell comes across like a chipper Cat Power, her vocal similarities belied by more upbeat material. Her use of alternate guitar tunings fills out the space unconsumed by the rhythm section of drummer Bucky Wheaton and bassist Chris McCarron.

While a few people remarked afterward that Land of Talk’s energetic performance left them unmoved, you wouldn’t have known it from the audience’s response at the time.

Then it was Menomena’s turn. Unfortunately the band neglected to sound-check prior to the show – there was a good 30 minutes between Land of Talk getting off the stage and Menomena getting underway – and by then the club’s transformation into a dance venue was only 10 minutes away and Brent Knopf’s microphones still weren’t working.

A debacle was only prevented by the granting of an extension and a decision to share a microphone with Justin Harris.

The band then proceeded to rip into their songs with gusto. The microphone switching didn’t seem to pose any particularly hardship for the band. Harris already switches between bass, saxophone and guitar, while playing more bass with a Moog footboard, so multitasking is presumably second nature by now.

They certainly seized victory from the jaws of defeat and went on to play an exhilarating set for the packed venue

The band’s loop-heavy songwriting style (a consequence of using that self-written computer program) gives many of their tunes a danceable edge, and Harris was more than justified in yelling “Here’s your fucking dance party!” as the evening came to an end.

















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Commenting On: Zaphod Beeblebrox, Ottawa, 24/3/2007 - Menonoma, Land of Talk and Field Music








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