Brian Eno once said that contemporary pop music is 40% innovation and 60% regurgitation. Essentially, you cannot move forward without looking back.
This shouldn’t come as an entirely new concept to anyone who has thought about it. Good pop music should build on and, at the same time, reference the past. Pay a debt to the musicians you idolize but create something new in the process.
Nothing exists in a vacuum. Manipulation of new technologies almost always moves with respect to what came before. The current trend of laptop generated sounds referencing folk music is a good example. It is never sentimental or campy because it acts to chart new territory.
Asobi Seksu does the latter without attempting the former. This band lazily re-presents (not as an homage) My Bloody Valentine’s sound, layered guitar, girl or boy vocal. The girl in this case is Japanese—so, some of the songs are sung in Japanese, and the name of the band is Japanese. Also, the album is packaged like some kind of post-WWII Japanese-imitating American pop groups art work (the front cover looks like a black and white hand colored photograph – but it actually appears to be a digital image that has been manipulated to look like a hand colored photograph).
I find the details taken in this direction extremely disturbing. The band has gone so far as to include a description of their sound (two paragraphs on the back) on the album cover. I fail to understand the need to do this. The copy is bad and hyperbolic besides. It tells you what to think before you are able to hear the sound.
After reading the back cover you don’t need to listen to the album. The album merely gives voice to the lie the packaging conveys. This is a good example of a contemporary group attempting to align themselves with a particular aesthetic (or two incompatible styles--in this case, 50s Japan and 90s Shoegaze) without really thinking it through.
The band seems to carry their affections by the numbers. This is what I find disappointing. They have rendered the subject matter of their songs irrelevant by issuing them in this kind of packaging. In the end, Asobi Seksu are all surface and no style.