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Simian Mobile Disco

Temporary Pleasure

(Wichita; US: 31 Aug 2009; UK: 17 Aug 2009)

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.


Speaking of Hot Chip, its sprawling but superlative magnet Made in the Dark (2008) very nearly sated appetites for brilliant manoeuvrings at the periphery of dance pop. In contrast, Attack didn’t, but also didn’t pretend to. Temporary Pleasure, which incidentally features Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor, follows this lack of pretension with more familiar fun decadence for the Energizer Battery Ibiza crowd, nothing more. Of course its title suggests as much. It is a slate of 10 pithy tracks that, unlike what we’ve heard on Attack, channels ‘80s rave and ‘90s Eurodisco into the pop song structure. This doesn’t however prevent some tracks like “Cream Dream” from being visited by the kind of frivolous, even superfluous lyricism so typical of club music. This reaches a head with single “Audacity of Huge”, a middling Devo-meets-Kraftwerk treatment that lets loose an infatuation with contemporary pop culture as well as the lingering malaise of unrequited love.


Unfortunately, in the grander Simian narrative the album indicates the duo at a stasis; 2007, the year of Attack, never really ended. Things have just gotten more pop. Even so Temporary Pleasure does bare some recognition from the alt-star cast Simian Mobile Disco chose to attend their Blitz party. Besides Taylor, they include Beth Ditto of the much-vaunted Gossip and Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals. Rather than a mere showing off of Simian Mobile Disco’s connectedness with the vanguard of hip, their utilising of Taylor, Ditto and Rhys provides the saving grace for a dance album that would otherwise vanish like a sugar high once the lights come on. We know that vanishing like a sugar high is the group’s intention but for the person thinking of investing in them it’ll be like paying the rent. You’ll never see the money again.


Gruff Rhys features on the Neu-style stabbing-synth scene setter “Cream Dream”, going falsetto because it’s so de rigueur of synth-pop, while Ditto’s hefty yet ethereal vocals a la Gloria Gaynor duly fill in the techno sparseness of “Cruel Intentions”. “Bad Blood”, which is of the same pedigree as anything on Hot Chip’s Coming on Strong (2004), features Taylor’s vague Balearic rumble with smatterings of viscous-like synths riding over cool finger-click beats. But the highlight doesn’t come until the final track “Pin Ball”, a track that reveals Simian Mobile Disco’s predilection for avant-electronica. This is in no small part owing to the participation of Brooklyn electronic duo Telepathe. Their pixie-like vocal confections worm in stereo around heartbeat polyrhythms like the double helix while drops of synth and dabs of fuzz beef up the track’s kaleidoscopic element.


But then you have scene-destroying throwaway tracks like Jamie Liddell’s sexed-up “Off the Map”, which does nothing but get one’s eyes rolling at the Calvin Harris-style silliness of it all. But at just over four minutes, it’s one of the longest tracks on the album. Of course the silliness is just what Simian Mobile Disco went to great lengths to promote on this record, although probably not the comparison with self-important bad sport Messr Harris.


Ironically, Simian Mobile Disco have chosen to welcome the release of Temporary Pleasure with a conceptually challenging, albeit very temporary, “Augmented Reality” installation in London. According to SMD’s website, “Augmented Reality” refers to the art of making virtual objects appear to exist in the real world. Although Temporary Pleasure is not quite the mirage that is virtual reality, it is certainly fleeting and a perfect addition for those looking to update their summer soundtrack playlist for 2009 (or 2007).

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By PopMatters Staff
12 Aug 2010
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