Release Date: Sep 15, 2009
Record label: Roc-A-Fella
Genre(s): Dance, Electronic
Temporary pleasure on overdrive: Lead single “Audacity of Huge” combines SMD’s trademark quirkiness and a killer vocal by Chris Keating of Yeasayer into one monster club track. Several other collaborations are successful (including Jamie Lidell on “Off the Map,” Young Fathers on “Turn Up the Dial”) but not mind-blowing. Efforts here lack urgency and a necessity to blow the doors off the club apparent on previous releases.
Simian Mobile Disco's debut Attack Decay Sustain Release was admirable not only for the strength and energy of its productions, but also for its back-to-basics blueprint. With second albums that follow debut breakouts, however, come various hangers-on, which in the case of a dance act, take the form of copious vocal features. (Granted, the duo could have easily snagged these earlier as well, thanks to their pedigrees as rock producers.) Temporary Pleasure opens with a familiar voice, Gruff Rhys from Super Furry Animals, and in an instant the setting dissolves from a glittery London club to the pastoral Welsh countryside.
Despite all the hosannas about how it signaled that the indie rockers were going dance, Simian Mobile Disco’s Attack Sustain Decay Release wasn’t that great of an album. It was pleasurable enough, sure, but it had grating vocals (often just a hook repeated a billion times on each song) and by-the-numbers acid-house grooves. It defined temporary pleasure: great the first time, and invariably less so over time.
If aliens were to land on our planet tomorrow, they’d probably waste no time asking the big questions. Why do we have wars? Why are some people obese while others die of starvation? Why - when he’s so unnecessarily rude to everyone - doesn’t someone punch Gordon Ramsey really hard in the face? However, this is a music review and since your humble narrator is fond of a whimsical flight of fancy, we can add another question to that list: what’s going on with the naming of music genres?Pop music no longer means music that’s popular, R n’ B has long been devoid of anything approaching either rhythm or blues and what exactly is alternative music the alternative to? At least you always knew where you were with dance. The raison d’être of dance music was, rather unsurprisingly, to make you dance, and to hell with anything more noble or meaningful.
When it comes to making pleasure-centric middlebrow pop-dance albums, you can't fault Simian Mobile Disco's instincts. Vocalists are good. Filler is bad. Hooks are a must. Nods to underground sounds must not alienate the unfamiliar. And an approach to genre that ranges somewhere from "catholic" to ….
Simian Mobile Disco (ie, James Ford and Jas Shaw) first showed us with 2007’s Attack Decay Sustain Release that they were as good at producing original material as they were at refashioning other great dance-punk revivalists such as Klaxons and the Go! Team. The album pinched Hot Chip’s cheek and Revenge of the Nerds’ whimsy together with LCD Soundsystem’s minimal beat and one-line hooks into a set of fluff-less tunes to monkey about to with unapologetic abandon. To be sure, the album, with production values rivalling Daft Punk’s, didn’t do much to shift the sands in dance music, but it did provide a fillip to the Nike High Top wearing, glow stick twirling wave that spread over the UK like the flu.
As producer of everyone from Arctic Monkeys to the Klaxons, James Ford has such an influence on the way pop currently sounds that his "day job" alongside Jas Shaw could feel like a side project. However, for the follow-up to 2007's Attack Decay Sustain Release, the pair have certainly pulled out the big guns, teaming up with a variety of guest vocalists. Super Furry Animal Gruff Rhys purrs over the Neu-like pulsebeat of Cream Dream, while Beth Ditto bares her soul on Cruel Intentions, seemingly an attempt to find the missing link between rave and Gloria Gaynor.
Welcome to tomorrow. Syrian techno is the new Afro-pop, robots are the new humans,all new guitars come complete with an in-built MicroKorg and [a]Simian Mobile Disco[/a] are still making dance music for people who don’t like dance music. They may be ace on paper – when rampant eclecticism is a matter of course for our finest young stars, what’s not to love about the idea of one of indie’s biggest producers teaming up with his long-time muso muse to collectively unleash their inner rave? – but it’s a sad truism that no matter how hard they try, SMD will always be slightly bumpipe.