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Fluorescein Revels in the Dark Side

Fluorescein’s Greg Mora digs into L.A.'s underbelly with a satirist’s eye for the ridiculous. At the Troubadour on Wednesday, Mora and his guitar-based Silver Lake quartet merged midnight-dark, back-alley rock with Sunday morning pop, managing to be simultaneously nonthreatening and punkish. Even though the songs didn’t reveal many unusual twists or intriguing layers, the combination worked well during this goofy, hard-edged set.

Clearly excited by the airplay KROQ has been giving “Cathy’s on Crank!,” from Fluorescein’s debut album “High Contrast Comedown,” Mora seemed even more fervent live than he does on record. He screamed with abandon, jumped around the stage and ordered another rum and Coke after announcing that he was already drunk.

But his passion for his songs felt infectious, especially during “This Time,” an ex-lover’s self-flagellating plea for one more chance, and “Slaughterhouse With a Bed,” a song that illustrates the group’s acuity with lovely pop songs undercut with menace. Fluorescein’s best songs dissect surface beauty and come up with something sinister, corrupt and usually humorous underneath.

But the occasional low points underscored the band’s main weakness: its bluntness. As appealing as “Crazy Eights” is at first, Mora’s railing on about being a “pseudo-psycho American native living in synthetic L.A.” becomes practically as obvious and trite as his subject. To avoid becoming as seemingly two-dimensional as the city it likes to poke fun at, Fluorescein will simply have to dig deeper.

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