Dust off your pagers and dial-up internet connections. On AlunaGeorge’s You Know You Like It, the nostalgia crescendos to a fever pitch so deafening, you can make out every vestige of circa-1999 R&B in its songs. These pinched, claustrophobic compositions unspool like a love letter to Jon B and 112. It’s not age-defying music by any stretch, but it is endearing.
The faint of heart might call You Know You Like It “ironic,” but that’s what gives the EP its charm: these dandier-than-thou Brits are a wildly sexy pair with a wildly unsexy fetish for ’90s relics. The problem is that Aluna Francis and George Reid are defined solely by their influences. In this strange, backward-looking 2012, that’s more or less par for the course, particularly in a field like indie R&B that seems to exist to pump out period pieces. But the more progressive end of the medium continues to astound. Jai Paul, Kwes and even the dubstep-centric Supreme Cuts ground their warped, funereal tunes in the bloodless cyborg pop of Aaliyah; Burial’s nocturnal Kindred EP was a work of depraved beauty. You Know You Like It sounds milquetoast by comparison.
Bizarrely, AlunaGeorge claim to have been inspired by masked Swedish duo The Knife. Only “Just a Touch,” accented by ripples of P-funk synth, hints at The Knife’s tranquilized club sounds. The sugar rush of the disco-leaning title track precedes the haunted “Put Up Your Hands,” where Francis’ thin, dovish voice gets washed up in layers of keyboard murk. It all looks workable enough on paper, but You Know You Like It is so imbued with the history of the genre it’s chosen to recreate that it has no sense of individual identity. Here’s hoping AlunaGeorge journey beyond self-limitation.