A classic case. With breakthrough album ‘Citrus’ Asobi Seksu won plaudits aplenty, topped end of year lists, toured the world, and finally retired to work on a follow up. Sadly, that follow up, 'Hush', and subsequent remix effort 'Rewolf', diluted the myth around the band, suggesting they had punched above their weight early on and were now struggling for new ideas. While originally fans had gone wild over the distinctive voice Yuki Chikudate and the textured, manipulated guitar playing of James Hanna, these tricks now seemed hackneyed.

Perhaps with this impression on their minds, the group retooled – hiring Billy Pavone and Larry Gorman to take over on bass and drums respectively – and presented 'Fluorescence' earlier this year. While not a radical change of direction, the album beefs up the Asobi Seksu sound, reconfiguring the existing elements into a heavier machine. Pavone in particular adds a muscular accompaniment to the sometimes ethereal playing of Hanna.

So as the crowd filed into XOYO – pretty much the hottest venue in London at present – there were many questioning faces among the assembled. How would this change of emphasis translate live? Answer: not very well, sadly. While Chikudate is still a beguiling, captivating singer, her charms – she is also a dextrous keyboard player – are somewhat submerged by the more aggressive, propulsive players behind here. And with Chikudate lost, what remains is a rather run of the mill American rock group. Hanna, certainly, has imagination, battling with a host of peddles, machines and contraptions to ensure his guitar never sounds the same for more than a few seconds, but it lacks impact on stage and can become blurred.

Of particular concern is the decision to allow Gorman a microphone. Sitting behind his kit at the back of the stage, he produces a disembodied wail which crushes all before it, sounding like a drunken karaoke performer murdering his own songs. If we allow ourselves a cliché and imagine Chikudate as a butterfly or some other such beauty, Gorman is a howitzer aimed directly at the crowd, obliterating any nuance or subtlety left in the already more robust Asobi Seksu.

New single 'Perfectly Crystal' stands up well, but it is only when the band reaches back to 'Citrus'-era material – 'Strawberries', 'New Year', 'Thursday' – that the gap between what this band was and what it is becomes clear. There is still enough good will around to offer Asobi Seksu one more lap, but, with fans fading fast, the follow up to 'Fluorescence' could be make or break.

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Commenting On: XOYO, London, 19/4/2011 - Asobi Seksu

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