Despite the best efforts of Loverboy, Rush and Our Lady Peace, Canada just doesn't rock the same way we do. Canuck bands come close, but just as often miss the mark. Not so with Moneen. It hasn't reinvented the emo/pop-punk wheel, but the Toronto-based foursome is certainly trying to. Wrapping hooks around twisted time signatures and swirling rhythms with uncommon fervor, you want to root for them, hoping they can take the genre somewhere new.
There's still plenty of room for improvement; if there's a prize for most obnoxious song titles, the quartet's sophomore disc, Are We Really Happy with Who We Are Right Now?, would win hands down. "To Say Something That Means Nothing to Anyone at All," "I Have Never Done Anything for Anyone That Was Not for Me As Well" -- they're all navel-gazing, including the epic, nine-minute closer, "The Last Song I Will Ever Want to Sing." Well, that pretty much makes it hard for an encore, eh?
On the flip side, Moneen strains at the boundaries of emo and hardcore punk with herky-jerky song structures, extended instrumental jams and lyrics that explore deeper themes than emo's boy-loses-girl ad nauseam. With its die-cut packaging, dark artwork and meditations on death, Happy asks the question, Is there room for art-rock in the emo world?
What keeps the album from being overwrought is the consistent sense of exploration and the melodic flavor of pop-punk seeping through. When they go full-throttle, they merge the energy and melodicism of Superchunk or Jimmy Eat World, but when they go off on an extended instrumental tangent, they are at their experimental and original best.
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