Wednesday, October 7, 2009

2006 : 01 "Sapphire Eyes" by Serena Maneesh

On paper it makes perfect sense: 80's new wave-isms found purchase in countless bands. Why, it's only a matter of time when shoegaze resurfaces. The problem is, there were thousands of bands in the 80's to rip off from; there's really only one shoegaze band. When that band reunites to tour and play exactly the same set they played nearly 20 years ago, why in the world would you care about some shoegaze revivalists from Norway?

Never mind Ride, Swervedriver, Lush, Medicine and Slowdive. My Bloody Valentine is the only shoegaze band that registers to this day. They have the best story: epic struggle to put out their second full-length, ends up costing $750,000 to produce, their shows were crushingly loud and described to this day in words usually reserved for moments like reaching the summit of K2, surviving the fall after your parachute fails, or massive drug intake. In other words: real accomplishments.

So, why should anyone care about Serena Maneesh? Their debut longplayer is basically a love letter to reverb, fuzz, and feminine whispers: ground not only well-covered but destroyed and left uninhabitable by MBV, Loveless, and the subsequent 91-92 tour.

Why? because MBV really weren't that good.

I was there. I saw MBV several times on the Loveless tour. I wanted to love it as much as I loved their first record and their ep's. I wanted to drown in it. I would have left early if Dinosaur Jr. wasn't headlining. Furthermore, Loveless didn't consist of songs so much as a bunch of rave-informed verse-chorus-verse-chorus fuzzscapes that, while good, certainly weren't worth bankrupting Creation Records.

At several moments, Serena Maneesh cashes the checks that MBV wrote. "Sapphire Eyes" is one of them. The song doesn't progress so much as congeal and dissolve around a cribbed Stooges riff. Then there's that moment of perfectly timed pop drama. Sure, we've heard it all before, but it's hard to resist when it's done this well.

Serena Maneesh is a tribute act, and like the best tribute acts they've done their homework. They make up for their lack of originality with a ton of meticulous craft and study. They are not without their flaws. Band leader Emil Nikolaisen has the annoying habit of wearing panchos, and there are some tedious extended freakout tracks on this album that were a great idea live and/or stoned, but fall flat when played back on earbuds while grocery shopping. All in all, though, Serena Maneesh is a pleasure. It borrows heavily, but it borrows from really good things: Spacemen 3, Velvet Underground, 4AD Records, and, of course, the Valentines.

Let's admit it, Kevin Shields is never going to make that follow-up album, Spiritualized will never return to the heights of their first two albums, and Cocteau Twins are never going to reunite. Consider Serena Maneesh a gift for those of us who weren't ready to call it a day with the last track of Loveless.

Neil Jendon

Listen: Serena Maneesh >> "Sapphire Eyes"

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