Moneen, Are We Really Happy With Who We Are Right Now? (Vagrant)

Sometimes it is a shame that the term “emo” (once short for “emotional hardcore”) became as watered-down as the bands it tried to describe. In cases such as Moneen’s, the original emphasis of the term fits the band’s fiery guitars, anguished vocals and complicated arrangements.

Their new album – the clunkily-worded Are We Really Happy With Who We Are Right Now? – is a marvel of structure and detail. Moneen’s complex and multi-layered arrangements — which turn each song into a mini-symphony of twisted guitars and brutal drums — extend to the sequencing of the record. Each song blends into the following track. Given the way in which Moneen’s songs don’t adhere to conventional song-structure (unwinding in a series of parts rather than repeating sections), the close quarters of the tracks often confuses where one song ends and another begins.

Frankly, it is all amazing. “Emo” gets bashed primarily because many bands who try to add complexity to their songs end up making a jumbled mess. Moneen’s odd changes and intertwining guitar parts aren’t always melodic but they fit. Likewise, the voices that are carefully doubled or harmonized don’t carry tunes so much as sing words on tone but they don’t go flat or stretch into whines.

Unfortunately, because there are few melodic hooks or succinct songs, the casual listener has little to hold on to once the record ends. The cumbersome song titles add to the difficulty of easily remembering the individual songs. This is an album’s album not a collection of short pop songs.

It might not be a record for the general public to hear on the radio, but this sort of tortured-soul-baring music is perfect for those who would have turned to Joy Division and the Cure for their solace twenty years ago.