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Serena-Maneesh - Serena-Maneesh

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Artist: Serena-Maneesh

Album: Serena-Maneesh

Label: Playlouder

Review date: Jul. 21, 2006

As a lad of 14 years, I was smitten with the dreamy, lightly depressive, reverb-heavy blend of rock now called “shoegaze.” It seemed an appropriate buffer against ominous, painful emotions for which I did not yet have a proper vocabulary. I routinely stayed up late to catch the latest ‘gaze jams on WNCW’s ARC Overnight, Western North Carolina’s only remotely “alternative” radio showcase back in ’92. I was awake and excited when the DJ devoted a set to Loveless, the hotly anticipated new slab from My Bloody Valentine, a UK outfit that, from what I read, was the bee’s balls of this thick, sad world in which I had set up camp.

I was there, kid. And, right away, I wanted it to be better. MBV wasn’t as melancholic as Slowdive. It wasn’t as tuneful as Lush or as rockin’ as Ride. It wasn’t as out-there as Spacemen 3, and had none of the frightening passion of the animalistic punk and rap that would soon hijack my attention. It wasn’t all that, and still isn’t, although, in case you didn’t notice, it’s now being treated as such, while its more sure-footed contemporaries languish in the used bin. I blame that twit Sofia Coppola.

In summary, I never seriously dug MBV, but that doesn’t keep Kevin Shields’ work, particularly Loveless, from being romanticized in a life-sized way. Shoegaze nostalgia, focused mainly on MBV, has been on its way “in” for some time. With a debut album that scratched Pitchfork’s annual Top 100 list before its stateside release, Norway’s Serena-Maneesh is its current prime mover.

This album doesn’t bite off nearly as much as it could’ve gotten away with biting. Actually, it does “bite” in the hip hop sense – every idea is pilfered from records that came out 10 to 15 years ago. That’s not too surprising, and in the wake of the loathsome “new wave of new wave,” it’s bitterly refreshing, if that’s how you play. But if I had to come up with a more precise euphemism for “sucks,” I wouldn’t use it to describe this album.

When your art is completely derivative, always shoot the moon. Go over the top. The worst that can happen is self-parody on top of parody, which can be a lot of fun.

Serena-Maneesh succeeds when it tries to do everything at once, packing a dozen counts of larceny into a single track. In that sense, “Selina’s Melodie Fountain” is the hit. It robs every sheet from the perforated shoegaze handbook, and then obeys every command at once with Spinal Tap abandon, enunciating its forebears’ most dopey excesses.

Cryptic lyrics delivered by “ethereal,” jailbait-style pipes? Check. Billions of competing, heavily distorted guitar tracks? You’d better believe it. Reverb? Just gallons of it? Check and checkmate. A balls-out solo that sounds like Slash kibitzing on the new Strokes record? How the fuck did that get in here? And how is it kicking so much ass?

No other tracks are so exaggerated or memorable, but with its grandiose aesthetic established, Serena-Maneesh is free to wander into the sleepy, “ambient” hinterlands a bit, or plug-and-play a few clunky “eastern” rhythms. At the end, S-M is still a silly tribute band, years away from hoeing a unique row. But when musicians crank out such a joyously chaotic mess of someone else’s forced nostalgia, it’s hard to be mad at them.

By Emerson Dameron

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