New York

Norwegian Psyche-Poppers Buy Pixar, Merge WB With UPN


Serena Maneesh + Asobi Seksu + Kiss Me Deadly
Mercury Lounge
January 21, 2006

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 if you don’t have earplugs (which I didn’t), but their psyche-noise-pop is fundamentally gorgeous and pillowy and gentle, guitar-spazz freakouts as comfort food, motorik/rockabilly chug as sweeping drug-lullaby. Here’s another: their hard-driving rocked-up jams are way less focused and more aimless than their expansive cloud-form shoegazer sighs. And another: the bassist looks like she was created in a lab to fit the Nico-derived towering Teutonic ice-queen archetype: at least 6 ft. 2, kohled-up eyes, hair so straight and blonde that it doesn’t look remotely real. But instead of standing stock-still onstage and staring out blankly, she’s all rocking-out awkward teenager, half-headbanging and jerking around and looking vaguely confused during the parts of the songs that don’t have any bass.

So here we have the newest toasts of the town, a European band that can sell out NYC clubs two nights running despite not having a domestic record deal and despite their big coming-out weekend conflicting with the Editors’ big coming-out weekend and everything. Another one of these bands comes along every couple of weeks to massive blog love and industry-douchebag excitement, but usually these bands (aforementioned Editors, Arctic Monkeys, etc.) specialize in crisp, dancey, predictable little bursts of jittery post-Britpop, pleasant enough but I don’t get the big fucking deal one bit at all. It’s not often that cool-new-band status goes to a group that zigs when it’s supposed to zag, that goes for brutally loud blisswaves when everyone would be perfectly happy with passable tunefulness. Its six members lazily careening through long-ass jam after long-ass jam, Serena Maneesh resembled nothing so much as a cleaner, less riffy, less beardy Black Mountain, a pretty group of fuckups who manage to sometimes pull off dazzling beauty without sacrificing stoned torpor, and even its loosest spazzouts kept a satisfying bottom-end thump. The last song of the night was all hazy washes of cooed vocals and neon guitars for a few minutes until the drums galloped and all of a sudden took control of the song, a furious groove that seemed to come beamed in from nowhere. Not quite face-melting, but I’ll take it. Also worth noting: frontman Emil Nikolaisen managed to make a frilly pirate look and matching Depp-in-Pirates mustache look somehow not creepy.

Friday night in Brooklyn, the band played with Psychic Ills, a perfect match; both bands do the spiraling expansive smear-groove thing from the same angles. But Saturday’s openers turned out to be a couple of pleasant complimentary-but-not-identical surprises. Asobi Seksu kept the best, poppiest parts of Interpol’s doomy elegance but turned up the disco in the beats and, um, had a woman singing, which made the whole thing somehow less overbearing (hey, I don’t make the rules). Like Interpol, they got boring after a little while, but at their best, they would’ve been perfectly cast as one of the bands that plays the Bronze on Buffy. (Not the Bait Shop or the Peach Pit After Dark. Just the Bronze.) Kiss Me Deadly was straight-up early-90s college-rock: blurry guitars and almost-anthemic pushing-hard hooks and percolating little click-grooves and hair in the singers’ faces. They need to work a little harder on their stage banter, but even with the awkward drunk jokes, they could’ve stepped directly out of an early Richard Linklater movie, and I can’t imagine a world where that would be a bad thing.

Download: Asobi Seksu, “I’m Happy But You Don’t Like Me”

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