“Let’s go!” she yells, tugging at my jeans and pulling me closer. The smoldering temptress gives me a seductive smirk. “What are you waiting for?” she demands. But I’m hesitant — it’s all too much, too fast.
This sentiment is the same one I have towards Asobi Seksu’s latest release, “Fluorescence.” Despite the promise inherent in the Brooklyn-based duo’s 2006 breakthrough “Citrus,” the band’s subsequent releases have fallen short. And while “Fluorescence” certainly had potential, it feels as though they jumped the gun.
Asobi Seksu works best when they keep it simple. It’s a formula its members perfected on 2009’s “Rewolf,” a one-off, acoustic LP. This minimalist effort showcased the band’s songwriting skill surprisingly well. But it’s a strength they rarely play to.
Initially, “Fluorescence” seems different. “Coming Up” proves a strong opener, a powerful rocker whose wailing guitars and thundering drums are reminiscent of 2009’s “Hush.” The band wastes no time launching into “Trails,” arguably one of their finest songs. It’s the perfect mix of aggression and emotion, while front woman Yuki Chikudate’s soulful vocals glide effortlessly over a sea of distorted, droning guitar. One can say that Chikudate’s voice is at its prime, and the band explores plenty of new terrain.
But the brilliance ends there; the rest of the album fails to make an impact. The album just lacks cohesion, and many of their great ideas are lost in each other. Each brilliant chord progression or sweet riff is quickly overwhelmed by several other equally awesome — but unnecessary and distracting — parts fighting for attention. It’s a raw patchwork of interesting sounds that, when combined, ultimately prove uninteresting.
“Citrus” was fiery and aggressive. “Hush” was a hazy, drugged-out dream. “Fluorescence” finds Asobi Seksu somewhere in between these two extremes, desperately seeking a new sound. At its best, it’s brilliant; but at its worst it’s unlistenable. Songwriting is as much a journey as a process, and had the band slowed down and explored their ideas, the end result would have been infinitely more satisfying.
Recommended for fans of Slowdive, The Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine.