Menace Beach return with their sophomore effort, Lemon Memory, with their ‘cool’ intact and some new tricks.
Menace Beach are not unique. They’re not one in a million; they are more like one in ten. The rock genre is littered with bands that play a similar brand of fuzzy, '90s indebted rock music, yet Menace Beach do have something special: swagger. It’s that exuding confidence, that ever elusive ‘cool’, and that’s what seems to separate the leaders from the pack, right? It’s what made the Strokes stand out in the early '00s, and it’s what brought the Artic Monkeys to our attention a few years later. Menace Beach return with their sophomore effort, Lemon Memory, with their ‘cool’ intact.
Menace Beach’s first album, Ratworld was met with hype, and the record mostly delivered. Opener, “Come on Give Up”, had more attitude than Silversun Pickups’ whole discography, and it was laced with a psychedelic melody to sweeten the deal. Throughout the rest of the record, the band served up substantial pop-rock with a fuzzy frosting. The critics weren't bowled over though, and Menace Beach have reacted. Lemon Memory doubles down on attitude, noise, and, most fortunately, singer Liza Violet’s role.
Most of the record stays on the fast side, and this works well for the group. Ryan Needham’s distorted vocals sounds great sliding over the fast paced rhythms of songs like the powerful opener, “Give Blood”, which channels the Spoon in both its stop-start-studio-banter intro as well as in its white noise solo towards the end. Later, “Sentimental”, “Suck It Out”, and “Can’t Get a Haircut” continue at to this lightning pace, but there’s more edge here than there was before. Where Ratworld mostly offered the sticky and sweet, Lemon Memory is jaded and a little more angry. When Needham gushes, “Sentimental. I don’t think so,” we get the feel Menace Beach is offering.
The band hits an exceptional stride when they slow things down, allowing their tones to stretch their fuzzy limbs a bit. “Maybe We’ll Drown” rides on an organ and a slow groove to pleasant effect, milking the contrast between Violet’s reverberated beauty and Needham’s fuzz. “Lemon Memory” works on the same trick. “Darlatoid” is Needham’s most beautiful vocal turn here. As the groups slow strums the crunchy guitars, we hear a hint of the Strokes at their most leisurely and slickest; think “Under Control”. All of this is mostly a departure from what Ratworld offered, but the newest development is the unleashing of Violet on some of these slower songs. She gets to stretch out a bit throughout the album, but her most interesting work is on the tracks “Owl” and “Hexbreaker II” where we hear a heavily reverberated vocal backtracked by a wall off fuzz reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine. Interestingly, one of the most critically revered songs of Ratworld was a slow, Violet-led number called, “Blue Eye". It seems Menace Beach noted that, and delivered what was requested.
As it stands, Lemon Memory is an improvement upon their debut. Whereas, Ratworld was a little more one-dimensional, Lemon Memory adds a few tricks to the repertoire. In a recent interview with Interview, Needham was asked about Violet’s heightened role in the new record: “Liza wanted it to be a lot more drone-y and dirge-y.” Good move.