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Asobi Seksu - Asobi Seksu

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Artist: Asobi Seksu

Album: Asobi Seksu

Label: Friendly Fire

Review date: Jun. 24, 2004

“We treat sex like a toy. A toy that destroys people.”
-Ch. Bukowski

The French can pack up Lady Liberty and head home. After sending over Asobi Seksu’s bilingual frontwoman Yuki Chikudate, Japan is NYC’s new best bud.

Guitarist James Hanna takes lead on a few songs, and his dry detachment provides a proper counterpoint, but he’d never carry the band by his lonesome. Asobi Seksu’s name is Japanese for “play toy,” and Chikudate’s wholesome anguish is what makes that the saddest thing since that kid getting hit by an ice cream truck.

“Sooner” could’ve been penned by a lovesick eight year-old (“I know you’re not open to me / It’s been a long time / You never stopped to see me try”), but Chikudate delivers it with such delicately sublimated frustration that it works like gangbusters. It works the same way My So-Called Life worked. Behind the smokescreen of dry ice, there’s a soggy mountain of soul too shy to come to Moses.

That said, beneath the tortured innocence, Chikudate’s acumen for calculation and modulation renders her perfect for this sort of distorto-pop. Her voice shifts in sync with the quiet/loud, shadowy/searing dynamic. When “Walk On the Moon” is still lurking in its verse, she glides between Julee Cruise-ish high notes; when it trudges into the minefield for its chorus (“Let them all walk away... So there’s no one to blame”), she adopts a wrenching matter-of-fact belt.

The rest of Asobi Seksu is hardly untalented, just a tad unseasoned. If the album could be wrapped up entirely as My Bloody Valentine Lite by way of Hum and the rest of the mid-’90s alt-rock signing frenzy, it would still succeed righteously on its own terms. However, a few variations emerge which suggest Seksu is underplaying its hand. The leadoff track “I’m Happy But You Don’t Like Me” (geez, what a fate) drives into a breezy organ hook that makes you wonder why Kevin Shields never tried to get away with more of what the Zombies got away with. The loungey detour “Taiyo” arrives at precisely the right moment to offset the mopey hangover and refresh the band’s shock value.

By Emerson Dameron

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