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Moneen: Are We Really Happy with Who We Are Right Now?

Christine Klunk


Are We Really Happy with Who We Are Right Now?

Label: Vagrant
US Release Date: 2003-06-17
UK Release Date: Available as import

So, apparently, now it's cool to be a guy who's super in touch with his sensitive side. Let's think for a moment of all the bands doing just that and cashing in big time: Jimmy Eat World, the Get Up Kids, Saves the Day, New Found Glory, Taking Back Sunday, Brand New, Alkaline Trio, Bright Eyes, Cursive, the Used, Thursday, and let's not forget the King of Pain himself, Chris Carraba of Dashboard Confessional. All these bands, plus many more I'm sure I've forgotten have hit it big over the last year or so by not being afraid to share their feelings and cry a little in their lyrics. Let's have a toast to all the emo boys of the world. Here's to you and your willingness to wear your heart on your sleeves. And here's to new members of the club, Moneen.

Hailing from the Canadian suburb of Brampton, the quartet started out on the reputable Winnipeg indie, Smallman Records. Releasing one full length, The Theory of Harmonial Value, and an EP on Smallman, they caught emo-magnet Vagrant's eye and were signed by 2002. Their latest release Are We Really Happy with Who We Are Right Now? marks their Vagrant debut.

Moneen, allegedly named after "a beautiful French girl", make a solid, if not somewhat predictable addition to the Vagrant roster. Standing alongside label-mates Dashboard Confessional, Alkaline Trio, and Saves the Day, Moneen contribute a rougher, yet poppier and more energetic sound that complements Dashboard's lovelorn laments, Alkaline Trio's polished punk, and Saves the Day's merciless whining.

But enough comparisons. Regardless of label or label-mates, Moneen have created an energetic and angry, guitar-driven pop album. Vocalist Kenny Bridges puts his whole wiry frame into each song, whether he's straining through the title track with glass in his throat or showing his softer side on the beautiful "I Have Never Done Anything for Anyone That Was Not for Me As Well". He bounces all over the place on the upbeat "Life's Too Short Little Ndugu", telling us to live it up while we can: "We have one chance / One time too smile / One time to try / One at a time".

Guitarist Chris Hughes shows a lot of versatility on the album, going from straight up, crunchy, rock guitar on the title track, "Start Angry � End Mad" and "Life's Too Short Little Ndugu" to jubilant, soaring hooks on "With this Song I Will Destroy Myself", to more intricate and ambient playing on "I Have Never Done Anything�" and the nine-minute closing epic, "The Last Song I Will Ever Want to Sing".

In their quieter moments, Moneen do more than show their willingness to croon a little. They also show off the instrumental skill they've acquired since their start in the late '90s, proving they can do more than just jump up and down and beat their instruments. The slower and longer tracks show a reverence for their instruments, including Bridges's vocal cords. It's an important contrast on the album.

Another of Moneen's interesting quirks: their songs are long, with many surpassing the five-minute mark. However, rather than droning on and on and putting me to sleep, almost every songs made me curious to see where it would end up. Each song has a sort of cinematic element to it, a distinct beginning, climax, and resolution. Granted, not all of the songs live up to the potential exhibited by the aforementioned tracks. "How to Live with the Thought That Sometimes Life Ends" doesn't really go anywhere other than around in circles, Bridges lost in his own melodrama. And "Thoughts Weigh Heavy�Don't Get Drowned in the Weight of It All" well � drowns in the weight of it all.

And another thing -- song titles. One of those suckers is 14 words long and a grammatically correct sentence. Is this pretentiousness or just an effort to let the listener know exactly what's going on in the song? We may never know, but from what I can tell, Moneen aren't particularly concerned either way. They've been touring all summer and are currently on the road with Saves the Day and Taking Back Sunday. They're exactly where they want to be, doing what they want to do: crisscrossing the country sharing their self-described "aggressive melodic pop" with as many people as they can. Sure, they're on Vagrant, which, unless you're Dashboard or Paul Westerberg, means you're more of a follower than a leader, but while Moneen may not be leading the pack of musicians in touch with their touchy-feely-ness, they do contribute their own unique version of this juggernaut known as emo.

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