Four albums in and Asobi Seksu are pretty much sticking to the old adage ‘if it aint broke don’t fix it’. When you’ve got a good product to start with, it’s not a bad mantra to have.
Formed in New York and formerly known as Sportfuck (a name they readily admit they outgrew), the group have been busy releasing albums at a rate of knots and providing soundtracks for all sorts of leftfield TV programmes and films. If you need a band to provide the backdrop to a self-conscious teen party or a nightmarish experience with too much ecstasy and your first lesbian kiss, you need to get them on the blower. Not that all this hard work has diminished their innate cheekiness. Their sometime-‘new’ name is a Japanese slang term for playful sex.
It’s this kind of naughtiness that kept them going through the dark days of 2006 when music was all about guitars and they were about as relevant as a cocktail bar at an AA meeting. It’s also the reason they don’t feel bitter about the fact that nowadays every Tom, Dick and proverbial is pedalling the same kind of fuzzy dream pop. In 2011 you’re nobody unless you sound like ABBA examining shoelaces, but that’s cool with them. They just got to the party a little earlier than everyone else and started warming everything up. Preparing the ‘shrooms. Building up walls of sound for people to knock right back down. Dusting off the old vinyl; The Beach Boys, Phil Spector, Pavement, Fleetwood Mac, The Shangri-Las, The Shirelles.
So, these are the glory days for Asobi Seksu. Right place. Right time. Right album. And it all sounds like a hell of a lot of fun. Any kind of music that makes you smile is in here, though it’s not music you can dance to. It’s music that washes over you, music to sit and smoke a zute to. Music that makes you want to have a picnic and lie on your back squinting into the sun. Music that makes you want to close your eyes and watch those weird blotchy bits of light dance under your eyelids.
Joyful and experimental in equal measure, Fluorescence is an album that challenges you without you even realising. Lead single Trails sums this up perfectly, creeping up on you with heavy shoegaze feedback and then obliterating you with merry go round pop that makes you want to move your feet and have a little sit down all at the same time. Vocals that are shrill and yet commercial, guitar parts that could be on a Katy Perry single and yet sound like something from another planet. Warped and wonderful synths that are part James Blake, part Emerson Lake and Palmer and part MGMT. These guys have got all the ingredients to make even those who are tired of dream pop break out into a grin. And always they have that cheekiness. Asobi Seksu may have been first to the party but don’t try and call them a cab. They’re just getting comfortable.