Once upon a time in the soggy streets of an emerald city known as Seattle, an army of torn-jean wearing, flannel draped longhairs flouted a particularly grimy musical style that would soon erupt across the countryside and infect the airways for the better part of a decade. Its countless permutations spread endlessly, unceasingly, until the all-powerful marketing wizards decided there just hadn’t been enough mascara and eyeliner in the ’80s. Thus from the ashes of hair-metal was reborn a slew of prattling (barely) post-pubescent wailers under the ubiquitous “pop-punk” banner. The once vibrant birthplace of all things grunge laid fallow, used-up and bereft of any true center; a music culture wandering aimless and infertile, lost.
Not all fairytales end happily ever after. Sometimes musicians go right on humping the leg of a vanished scene until the magic is long gone, scrambling desperately to differentiate themselves from their peers and precursors. The latest such band to strike a claim in Seattle’s desolation, Siberian, come well short of even their own aspirations. Falling on the spectrum somewhere between Radiohead’s The Bends and any number of indistinguishable indie acts of the last thirty seconds, Siberian’s debut With Me documents what for the last few years has only become more evident: Seattle’s music scene suffers an acute case of lost identity.
“Paper Birds” catches thermals to a soaring chorus, lifted by angular guitar interplay reminiscent of fellow Seattleites Crystal Skulls. And no wonder, Crystal Skulls lead singer Christian Wargo even drops backing vocals. Still Siberian’s own vocalist Finn Parnell’s crooning seems deliberately emotive, like a bemused Thom Yorke yelping about origami.
About mid-way through, the whole verse-chorus-verse pattern reaches a redundancy which no bridge can salvage. “Futuristic Kids” strives for Strokes-dom, guitar churn and Parnell’s falsetto sailing through drummer Aaron Benson’s lusterless cymbal sheen, but to no avail. Like most of the current Seattle music landscape (with very few exceptions), originality trails marketability by years. The scene, if it can be called one at all, is vampiric, where bands partake in a sort of incestuous creative siphoning. As on obligatory-epic-closer “Islands Forever,” which noticeably taxes the band to push past the five minute mark, Siberian demonstrates an ambition that stretches beyond their talent, and which will require some time away from their peers should they hope to rise above them.