When I heard about Matt Berninger and Brent Knopf’s new project El Vy, I couldn’t wait to hear what they would deliver. It was only when I heard about the project that I discovered Menomena, and their sound mixed with Berninger’s voice had the potential to be something special. I also knew it was probably going to be a shift from what you would usually expect from a Matt Berninger album in that it could be more upbeat through an entire record rather than a few tracks here and there. When they announced there North American tour I knew I had to get a ticket, so a few months later I found myself tearing it up in a little venue called Neumos all hopped up on shitty Starbucks.
The album itself ‘Return To The Moon‘ delivered more than I could have expected. I kept doubting that it could be so good, that something had to go wrong along the way. From ‘Return To The Moon’ to ‘Careless’, I couldn’t find a flaw in its 11 tracks. ‘Return To The Moon’ was released as a single and fared well in radio play terms, which Berninger said was weird because he hadn’t experienced that before. It kicks off the album well with its poppy sound and quirky, unusual lyrics, particularly, “scratch a ticket with the leg of a cricket and I got, triple Jesus”. This kind of writing tells me Berninger used the album to pen some material he wouldn’t get away with while working with The National. This writing is even more evident in ‘I’m The Man To Be’ in which he sings ‘I’m peaceful cos’ my dicks in sunlight‘ and ‘I’ll be the one in the lobby in the green coloured fuck me shirt’. Audio of what seems to be someone checking up on the band also plays at one point so this track does stand out in terms of creativity. ‘Paul Is Alive’, which I think is about Paul McCartney is the third track and its a story well told and also contains one of my favourite lyrics ‘nobody stays above, out in the waves of love‘, showing that they still aimed for meaning in the record despite its loose, free feeling sound. Similar light-hearted songs include ‘Silent Ivy Hotel’ and ‘It’s A Game’ and ‘Careless’, which give the album a little extra feeling and sincerity. Beautiful tracks where the band calm down and give really draw you in.
Songs such as ‘Sleeping Light’, ‘Sad Case’ and ‘Happiness Missouri’ are what make the album stand out for me. I’m sure fans of Menomena would be used to the alt-pop sound but it shows a new side of Berninger in that he has the freedom and write lyrics for something with a bit more bite. These three songs don’t hold much back in terms of sound and creative writing. ‘Sleeping Light’ is a favourite of mine where the character waits for the person they’ve sent away to come back to them. There’s also a guitar solo in this track that’s as catchy as an STD, so watch out for it! A special mention has to go to ‘No Time To Crank The Sun’, a fucking beautiful song that would be up there with anything either of these men have been involved in. It goes through several sounds and emotions and is really captivating, coming half-way through the album to give it some extra glamour.
I’ve always thought that The National had their own style anyway and that they wrote whatever they wanted, but that seems to be heighten in this album. I’m also slowly but surely educating myself in the music of Memomena and so far they sound like an excellent find. These two men work so well together and make it sound so easy, and hopefully there will be a second effort from them because chemistry like this is too good to waste.