Menomena: Friend and Foe

Friend and Foe
Barsuk Records

"Take it!/When I'm not looking!/Take it from the hook while it's still kicking!/Don't you feel it when I start reeling!" The fishing metaphor accompanying the stalking piano riff on the opening of "The Pelican" is an apt one. Friend and Foe's bait is friendly Portland post-rock, but the hooks (oh, the hooks) go deep, and when Menomena pulls you to the surface, there will be gasping and disorientation. This band seemed so nice with their 2004 debut, I Am the Fun Blame Monster. "I have a close friend who's just been so supportive and he said, 'Man, you can stop now. This is too depressing, it's too much of a downer record. You can't release this,'" says guitarist Brent Knopf. But by late 2006, the band's planned basement-recording time had tripled from four months to a year. "We were running out of time," Knopf says.

The album that shipped last week reflects the tumult. Using bass, drums, and piano with a healthy splash of guitar, keyboards, sax, glockenspiel, and some digital effects, Friend and Foe channels the anxiety of three men turning 30 amid needy wives, needy mortgages, and critical success perversely heaped atop financial insolvency. Day jobs include carpentry, screenprinting, and math tutoring. "It's high time we step outside, drop the gloves, and settle this like men," the three sing on "Rotten Hell," and they might be talking about each other. But Friend and Foe picks its fight with the idea that a great record has to cost $50,000 to make. "We had four shitty mics instead of one this time," Knopf recalls. They make up for it with inspiration, perspiration, and maybe a couple of bloody noses.