Albums often have odd names with even odder origins. Lemon Memory is Menace Beach’s second album, and it was named such in order to “lift a citrus-based curse” on the house the band lived in. The band has yet to comment on whether it worked, but in the meantime, fans can enjoy this album in spite of, or maybe because of, its occult origins.
Menace Beach is an indie rock band from Leeds, England led by Ryan Needham and Liza Violet. The rest of the band has been composed of a rotating cast of musicians from various bands with no real manager, unlike most “proper bands.” The founders claim that this fluidity and variety allow Menace Beach to avoid the pitfalls of its new-band status, something Needham addressed in an interview with The Independent.
“I’ve been in a couple of bands before this, we had proper management, you get so into it,” Needham said. “But there’s a point where you’re not running it, you wonder why you’re doing it … Not saying it was a ‘proper band’ was a way to avoid all of that.”
Lemon Memory has a very distinct sound, often reminiscent of ’80s and ’90s indie rock. Tracks like “Give Blood” and “Maybe We’ll Drown” have a steady electric guitar progression and distorted vocals that bring to mind indie rock bands from the time that Menace Beach appears to replicate. Nirvana’s drowned out vocals and long riffs on guitar immediately spring to mind. Menace Beach clearly hasn’t reached Nirvana-status just yet, but the inspiration is evident.
Violet takes center stage on Lemon Memory, a distinct change from their first album Ratworld. Her soaring and lofty vocals fade across songs like “Owl” and the final and longest song on the album, “Hexbreaker II.”
“The first album, I hadn’t been in a studio that much so I didn’t know how to get my ideas across,” Violet said. “This time, we knew what we wanted from the beginning.”
The album had its origins in the halls of classic rock. The band travelled to an island off the coast of Ibiza called Formentera. In the ’60s, Formentera was populated almost exclusively by hippies. The island voyage was enough for the band to begin writing songs while visiting these landmarks of classic rock.
“Pink Floyd lived there in the sixties,” Needham said. “Bob Dylan lived in a little windmill so we hired scooters and found it. You could see why they would have gone there. It had that kind of vibe, it felt pretty magical.”
The trip clearly worked when listening to “Suck It Out,” the seventh track on Lemon Memory. The song has an anthem-like quality. Droning, monotone lyrics describe people trapped in the mundane routines of their own lives. The song then leaps into striking guitar chords and chants of “Suck It Out!” This mantra is like a callback to the age-old (and incorrect) adage of sucking out the venom from a snakebite. Menace Beach is singing about sucking out the poison that is keeping people restrained and obedient.
Menace Beach continues to call back to earlier forms of exploratory rock with its use of a talk box, most clearly outlined in “Can’t Get A Haircut.” A talk box is a device that allows players to shape the sound of an instrument, in this case and most commonly an electric guitar, to the sound of their voice. With the talk box, they can make it sound like the electric guitar is speaking. Peter Frampton famously used a talk box to make the guitar ‘say’ “Do you feel like we do?” in his song, “Do You Feel Like We Do.” The talk box in “Can’t Get A Haircut” allows for the sounds of the electric guitar to extend to their natural conclusion, letting the chords fade through the rest of the song.
Lemon Memory combines a wide variety of sounds, from indie rock to alternative and even hard rock. Menace Beach is only 5 years old, and they, along with the album, sound “new.” The band is clearly talented, however, and is capable of making good music. The album can be most concisely summed up by Violet in an interview with DIY Magazine.
“The one rule thing we went into the album session with was to keep in mind that sometimes doing The Opposite is much more interesting.”
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