Serena-Maneesh provide the latest update in the Scandinavian invasion of British-branded indie. However, unlike fellow countrymen the Knife and Love Is All, Serena-Maneesh are far less experimental and sound far more familiar to British ears. The band are not without their moments; at times sensitive and subtly powerful, mixing guitars and electronics to good effect. However, such moments are fleeting moments and the band lack creativity throughout. The psychedelic experimentation promised by the press release is notably absent, as is the ability of Serena-Maneesh to offer more conventional quality.
The opener is indicative of their subtle blandness; marching percussion, fronted by distorted call and response guitar licks, complete with a male-female vocal performance that would have been more fitting as reverb. Scattered guitar solos designed to add depth do nothing but bring back Brit-pop memories that I tried so hard to forget. The lyrics 'take me down to the special place...' confirm this influence. The second and third tracks are much stronger, the former featuring a catchy, almost pulsating, guitar-led rhythm. The latter is a sensitive affair; the same vocal mix compliments the delicacy of the track, whose quality is held in the balance by a series of unthoughtful, almost clumsy, chord changes. Nevertheless, there is a clear indication that Serena-Maneesh have more to offer.
The fourth track suffers from same weakness in its chord changes but is far more distinctive. By virture of the length of the track, the rhythm section is able to provide the best elements of its ancestory. However, by track seven, I feel bored by the same sensibilities. Track eight is the Verve. Despite this obvious ancestry, the track is patient, warming when played loudly, and is free from earlier weaknesses. However, the true problem of this album - that it is not sufficiently creative - is revealed when the band resort to an invasion of crunch guitar as the only way to take this track beyond its original plateau. And if you want the Verve stick to A Storm In Heaven. Track ten is some kind of noise experimentation but is too rigid, too conventional, to be entertaining. Similarly, the finale, despite song within song, does not offer anything remotely distinctive, or even palatable insofar as it is a nice song.
There is little to add in conclusion. The early demos I heard of Serena-Maneesh were much more promising but this album throws up too many images of 30-something men in love with their sunburst telecaster and Gibson Les-Paul. That would be acceptable, should the songs be impressive, but this is not the case. While Serena-Maneesh may be something that Scandinavia did not previously possess - but don't quote me on that - as a British listener, I've heard it before. The 'good' moments are fleeting and by the eleventh track I had begun to wonder whether they were ever there. This album should come with a warning: Not for the discernible listener.