Saturday, March 11, 2006

Even Liars Tell the Truth Sometimes

"Us, retro?" The Guardian calls them "a Norwegian band who are to Primal Scream and the Mary Chain what Primal Scream and the Mary Chain were to the Velvets and the Stones."

"Selena's Melodie Fountain" - Serena Maneesh
"Your Blood In Mine" - Serena Maneesh
(from their eponymous debut)

If there's a purpose to the internet beyond pornography, it's to berate and deride others' opinions mercilessly. Which is a game I'm more than willing to play: if you can take it, dishing it out is like shooting fish in a barrel. Bullets can't hurt you if you're metal-plated.

Of course, sometimes the melee gets a little muddled, and perhaps certain things are said that needn't be. I'd been wondering if perhaps I've been too harsh on ubiquitous hipster wunderkind Nick Sylvester. For those unfamiliar, Sylvester is a Grand Poobah of Hyperbole, a master of the masturbatory metacriticism which Pitchfork helped define. More in love with his own language than interested in offering coherent criteria for his criticism, Sylvester's various offenses include...

::self-congratulatory writing that comes off more clumsy than creative.
::perpetually playing it safe with average album ratings ("3 Stars means never having to say you're sorry!") while only dropping the bomb on obvious atrocities.
:: inevitable, slavish devotion to the overrated esoteric bands he finds before everyone else.

But even a blind man at a dart board will occassionaly hit the target. Once in a blue moon, Sylvester unearths a true gem of a band, the most recent of which is Serena Maneesh. When I read Sylvester's self-consciously epic/epochal review of their eponymous debut, I doubted how impressive the album would be. I knew this "only melody that matters this fall" would be in accordance with Sylvester's obession with female-voiced, breathily-cooed naivete, and I wasn't about to get burned again by some mediocre band compared to MBV for strumming overdriven open-string chords. "This is probably just another art-school dropout act who carry Psychocandy in one hand and Daydream Nation in the other," I thought, "Just to tide people over until that Arctic Monkeys LP drops."

Fast-forward a few months, and I'm reading Tom Breihan's blog on the Village Voice where, lo and behold, is a review of Serena Maneesh's live debut in the Big Apple. I scan the opening sentence...

"Here's something weird about Serena Maneesh: they play loud, like really loud, like louder than SunnO))), loud to the point where it's physically uncomfortable to be at their show..."

...and I'm already sold, because Serena Maneesh get it. They understand that the secret to Kevin Shields' sound wasn't simply distortion under echo, but sheer gut-shattering VOLUME - sound as a physically transformative medium. The reason Shoegaze failed as a movement is because all the bands leaned more towards the Cocteau Twins than the Jesus and Mary Chain, all sounding like a limp-wristed return to the womb. Even to this day, people prize Loveless more for its pillowy ambience than its serrated, bed-of-nails overdrive.

But such is not the case with Serena Maneesh. Who'd have thought that a bunch of Norwegian dandies who dress like psychedelic pirates would have struck the most perfect balance between pop and apocalyptic noise in fifteen years?

Given that Serena Maneesh has garnered more spins in my stereo than the rest of my collection combined so far this year, I'd felt indebted to Nick Sylvester. After all, for every ten times he's wrong, he is sometimes so, so right. Of course, as I'm about to write this online love letter to Mr. Sylvester, this story breaks. In the week ensuent, Sylvester's, uh, "creative liberties" have cost him his pedestal atop the Pitchfork roster and he's been suspended from the Voice after a public spanking.

Really, Nick... fabricating material? On a story about singles bars? Shit, I wrote a cover story too and didn't need to make anything up. Come on, son.

PS:: What would y'all like to hear next - some Japanese jazzbo weirdness or epic junkie orchestral rock? Let me know your vote via the comments, please.


mike said...

epic junkie orchestral rock!
epic junkie orchestral rock!
titties and 'splosions!
epic junkie orchestral rock!

Anonymous said...

Is that Jack White rant real? WTF is that all about?

Seb said...

Indeed, that Jack White rant is straight from the unnavigable White Stripes web site. As for what is it about - your guess is as good as mine. I'm willing to say he's an emotionally fragile megalomaniac who was erroneously given a chance to detail his feelings.