Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her have come a long way since Higurashi Ahia decided to form a band nearly 10 years ago.
Even as recently as 1996’s It’s Brand New, the band indulged in the usual indie gestures that toe the line between amateur preciousness and mature sophistication — angular hooks, changing tempo, sparse arrangements giving way to bombastic outbursts.
By comparrison, SSKHKH’s latest album, Future or No Future sounds tame next to It’s Brand New, and while Higurashi may be writing more conventional songs nowadays, they’re far more crafted and much more mature than her earlier work.
(Check out SSKHKH’s 2000 album, No! No! No! It’s got a bit more punch than the polished sound of Future or No Future.)
Higurashi knows now she can write a hook and still sound like she’s pushing the envelope.
“Sentimental Journey” hammers away with a dischordant guitar hook, but its primitive forcefulness is far more effective than some of her dissonant solos on It’s Brand New.
The 46-second title track is a nice, concise workout that says more in its brevity than some of the three-minute songs on the album.
“Mo’Mo’Gimi’Mo'” alternates between a quiet half-time strumming, a head-banging riff and a bombastic bridge, but this time around, Higurashi has a better handle on juggling all three elements.
When Higurashi does opt to nail a hook, she does so marvelously.
“Think It Over” shows off a Harley-riding rock ‘n’ roll swagger. Simple eight-note riffs drive “Fuck It Up and Get Hurt” and “Mo’Mo’Gimi’Mo'”.
“Evolution” sports a bittersweet melody countered by a saccharine organ line, while “Lullaby” supplements its dramatic chorus with amplified strings.
Up until Future or No Future, Higurashi sang exclusively in heavily-accented English. This time around, she’s thrown in some of her native Japanese into a few verses. It’s a nice break.
Future or No Future is a satisfying album, full of mature songwriting and incredible performances.