Serengeti: Kenny Dennis III

The law of diminishing returns has begun to catch up with Seregenti's sketch-like Kenny Dennis persona on this, his fourth dedicated release.


Kenny Dennis III

Label: Joyful Noise
US Release Date: 2014-11-11
UK Release Date: 2014-11-10

Like any recurring character, Serengeti’s Bears, beers, and brats-loving Kenny Dennis is subject to the law of diminishing returns. Where his first appearance on 2006’s Dennehy provided insight into a fairly one-dimension, though ultimately likable persona on an album full of spot-on Chicago-centric jokes and references, subsequent reappearances have felt somewhat obligatory and, at worst, forced.

With Kenny Dennis III, Seregenti himself seems to have tired of the shtick, ceding a great deal of the album’s running time to Workaholics star and Chicago native Anders Holm (with whom he’s previously partnered on record) in the form of an extended skit that recounts the pair’s re-acquaintance and subsequent tour as Perfecto, a group set on bringing their C&C Music Factory-inspired style of hip-hop to malls across the Midwest. Holm’s description of the Perfecto sound and on-the-road experience with Kenny proves more interesting than anything delivered by Dennis himself, providing character insight and detail lacking in Dennis’ own limited verses here.

Sadly we are not afforded the chance to hear anything even remotely resembling the sound of Perfecto. Instead, Serengeti-as-Dennis stumbles his way through a tired routine that has clearly run its course, touching on familial strife, personal frustrations and of course a number of reference-heavy verses. But none of these help to further the character’s development in the way previous releases did, nor do they help justify Kenny’s continued existence on record. With Serengeti’s elevated profile following his collaboration with Son Lux and Sufjan Stevens last year under the Sisyphus moniker, one would think he would want to further his own name rather than rehashing an existing persona whose best work it would seem is well behind him.

Only with “On/Off” are we afforded any sort of character evolution or insight as Kenny briefly touches on all the discussion of gang violence in his beloved city. Attempting to shift the focus away from the violence, he instead places his focus, as is his id-driven wont, on all of the great things the city and its surroundings have to offer. It’s only the briefest flicker of encouragement that there might be a bit more behind the belligerent persona, but it’s gone before it has a chance to explore much of anything further, devolving into a series of lazily repetitious rhymes and blurred beats.

The vitality once inherent and so appealing in the character has essentially been stifled by returning to an already-thin premise several times too many. While not entirely without merit (“Buddy Guy” affords a few laughs with the titular phrase applied not to the legendary bluesman but as a proto-bro addressing of random dudes in general), Kenny Dennis III feels warmed over and too short on quality material to have a justified existence as a full-length. Stripped to its core elements, it would suffice as a stop-gap release, much in the same manner as 2012’s Kenny Dennis EP did.

For an artist as prolific as Serengeti, repeated trips to the already fairly shallow Kenny Dennis well prove less than rewarding. While he’s certainly an entertaining persona when at his best (we still have Dennehy and last year’s Kenny Dennis LP to return to should we wish to spend a little more time with the thickly mustachioed, sunglasses wearing Chicagoan), when he runs out of things to say he’s simply, as Holm subsequently finds, not all that much fun to be around.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.