Empty Bottle; Sat 11
The ’00s have seen a dearth of good shoegaze, and in its absence the label’s been misappropriated in our iPods and in our minds to describe a myriad of moody music. Sure, Chris Martin enjoys staring at his Gucci trainers, but Coldplay is not shoegaze. Sigur Rós’ glacial compositions are not shoegaze. Emo and shoegaze should not be used in the same sentence. It’s almost as if we’ve forgotten what a distinct sound bands like Slowdive and Lush blueprinted, blasting us through a wind tunnel of ferocious feedback, easing down onto a pop hook, then sweeping us into the whirlwind all over again.
Considering music’s short-term memory loss, it’s best to be wary that 2006 has been declared the Year of Shoegaze, with “nu-gaze” bands like Film School and Autolux attempting to update it for Gen Y. We’ll take our wager instead on Norway’s Serena Maneesh, a group so retro—and with such a firm grasp on the style—that it sounds more like it could be a peer of My Bloody Valentine rather than a diligent apprentice. The band came to Chicago’s Electrical Audio studios to record much of its impressive, self-titled full-length (out in the U.S. in June); a ferocious, feedback-laden performance at Oslo’s Øya Music Festival bodes well for its first U.S. tour.
Like many first-wave shoegaze bands, the Velvet Underground courses through group leader Emil Nikolaisen’s chords, while bassist Lina Holström does her best Warholian Nico impression alongside him. The pretty dream-pop melodies are all here, but it’s the control Serena Maneesh exerts over raw noise (songs often hit the seven-minute mark), in a way few have accomplished since Sonic Youth, that really affects. In its heyday, the Jesus and Mary Chain started more than a few riots; this, too, is music worthy of passionate violence.—Antonia Simigis