But: today I have been shaken out of this paralysis and motivated to write, and ironically it's not even because of any of the stuff I wanted to write about over the past week. No, I'm writing today to talk about an album I just downloaded and burned to CD this morning, right before coming to work where I'm writing this now. And I'd like to begin this writing with a question: why didn't anyone tell me how awesome Moneen are before now? Seriously, man, people have been holding out on me! I found out about them very recently, when I participated in a CD exchange on a message board I post on. Either I got really lucky with who was drawn to make me a CD, or the kid who made mine was aware of my fascination with emo, because the CD sent to me was full of the sort of poppy emo melodies that I'm a sucker for (as I'm sure you all know by now). Amazingly enough, I'd never even heard most of the bands on the CD, and had never even heard of about half of them. Moneen was a name I'd heard in passing, but for some reason I'd assumed they were just a trendy scene band with no real musical value--I guess because a lot of the kids who were talking about them were the same kids who'd been all about Dashboard Confessional a couple years before. Well, when I heard the song that the kid from the message board had put on my mix CD, I realized that I'd made an incorrect assumption. "How Many Other Girls Are There In The World Anyway" was immediately catchy, and utilized more straight melodic rock riffs than typical of the more pop-punk and hardcore influenced emo bands of the current scene. This made me really happy, as the more indie-rock sound of bands like Braid and the early Promise Ring and Get Up Kids records is something that I feel has gone by the wayside in recent years. It was good to find a band keeping that sound and style alive.
Last night, after finally burning a whole bunch of CDs and clearing some space on my computer's hard drive, I set my music downloading program to get me the most recent Moneen full-length, 2003's "Are We Really Happy With Who We Are Right Now?" When I woke up this morning, it was finished downloading, and I listened to it as I got ready for work. I expected it to be good, based on the song I'd already heard by them, but this vastly exceeded my expectations. In addition to the indie-rock influence I'd already noted, their songwriting style had expanded to include long quiet stretches, which occasionally added piano to their standard rock instrumentation. It seems Moneen wanted to create more than just another album of standard pop songs. The songs on this album are all longer than the three-and-a-half minute song with which I'd been introduced to them, and the closing track, "The Last Song I Will Ever Want To Sing," stretches on for nearly ten minutes. Those minutes are not wasted, either; beginning with quiet guitar feedback, the song is barely there at first. Slowly, a mournful melody emerges from the ambient hum, but the song doesn't begin in earnest until three minutes in. The main body of the song is slow and starts out quiet, then builds towards a midsong crescendo that fades back into mournful ambience before slamming back into things full-force for a powerful end to the song and the album.
None of the other songs on the album are quite this long, but a lot of them are this elaborately structured. Moneen are ambitious; they're interested in writing more than just the standard verse-chorus-verse pop songs that dominate their particular subgenre. At times, this ambitiousness reminds me of recent work by Cursive, another melodic indie-rock influenced emo band who have sought to move beyond the typical. While Moneen haven't achieved the same amount of notoriety from this experimentation, I feel like they are perhaps even more successful at it than Cursive, whose longer songs tend to seem unnecessarily padded. Moneen, on the other hand, have the ideas and the riffs to create five-minute mini-symphonies without running out of steam, and they do so to the best of their abilities here. I've only listened to the record a few times, so I haven't started noticing particular songs to that great an extent, but what I can't get over is the sheer catchiness of so many of the songs here. These guys are really good at generating intense forward motion without relying on the standard pop-punk tropes that most emo bands use these days, and it's like a breath of fresh air to hear all these songs that hark back to a sound I thought had been abandoned. For everyone who loved Texas Is the Reason and the first few Get Up Kids EPs but thought the days of that sound were over, this band is for you.