Monday, October 20, 2008

Serena Maneesh - Serena Maneesh (2005)

I found this on a blog alongside the statement that it's the best shoegaze they'd heard since Slowdive's Souvlaki. Now, that's a big statement. Best thing in 12 years for a pretty big genre? So, while I was loading it up I went looking for more info and reviews of the band. It turns out that this album, in all cases that I found, is held pretty highly.

Sounds exciting, right? But wait, let's take a closer look. One review loves this for doing away with the thick atmosphere championed by shoegaze bands since the beginning. Wait, you like it for taking away the one thing that carries most of these bands through? And, listening to the beginning of the album, this is exactly how it feels - it's cleaned up, catchy, simple rock with breathy vocals and a tiny little bit of distortion stains left around the edges. Easily digestible "shoegaze" in a pouch, anyone? It actually does take me back to the early 90s, mostly due to the annoyingly simplistic guitars. I mean, the opening track's main riff has what, 3 whole notes to it? Thankfully they discovered the innovation of the "chorus" to vary things up a bit. The second song doesn't even have that much variety. This was okay back at the beginning when the style was still forming, especially when it was swathed in some lovingly gritty productions, but it's just irritating now. Shoegaze, in the classic sense, is really nothing more than a bit of a trick, relying on shimmery noise more than music complexity. Take away the first, but leave the last? No thanks. It's certainly decent, especially if you can block out the guitars, but this is nothing new to the table.

Thankfully, the quality shifts up a bit after the first four songs. Well, "Un Deux" is alright, but it doesn't even top the two minute mark. Anyways, "Beehiver II" heads firmly into simple (but appreciated) noise rock territory, followed up by "Her Name is Suicide", which has a nice low-key shimmer to it, focusing on muted female vocals, keys, and a bit of fuzz and crackle. The rest of the album seems to have a bit more texture to it while relegating the guitars away to the background where they belong, adding some desperately-needed depth to the proceedings. The aptly name track "Simplicity" is the only real blemish left, adding a bit of filler rubbish to reign the interest in.

Aside from lacking quality in song composition and worthwhile innovation, this album loses points for being too disparate. There is very little feeling to it, with styles ranging (but still trapped by banal MBV worship) from surf-tinged guitars to more typical, straight-forward rock numbers for no certain reason or emotional intent. There are some good ideas, especially after the first few songs, and I am interested to see what they do after this, but I really couldn't recommend this to anyone unless they really wanted something to toss into the ol' shoegaze playlist.

Verdict: Indifference (really, why is this so highly regarded?)

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