You probably already know of Simian Mobile Disco, but for all the wrong reasons. The dance group rose out of the ashes of indie psych-rock group Simian, whose 2002 song “We Are Your Friends” got remixed by techno maestros Justice just this last year. The video for that song (featuring a guy getting a cat thrown at him in slow motion, amidst other craziness) won Best Video at the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2006, leading a tipsy Kanye West to rush on stage and launch into an infamous rant about how his video should have won — an event that was very well publicized after the fact. It bolstered Kanye’s reputation of defending his ego, but also brought some stateside buzz to the Mobile Disco, whose indie-leaning club singles “Hustler” and “It’s the Beat” slowly began building momentum and acclaim in equal regards. Could it be that a full-fledged underground-dance revolution is nearing?
Enter Attack Decay Sustain Release.
The group’s debut album is unconventional for a lot of reasons. First, the title is copped from a lesser-known (and more pop-heavy) dance group called Japanese Car Crash, whose only album carries the same moniker. Why would the group do such a thing? Who knows — it only adds to the intrigue. Additionally, the duo (consisting of James Ford and Jas Shaw) knows a thing or two about avoiding the usual pitfalls that most dance albums fall into: overlong songs being the biggest one. This 10-track album doesn’t have a single track that’s over five minutes long, making the whole affair clock in at just a little over 35 minutes. It’s this kind of to-the-point frankness that gives the album its push — each number never outstays its welcome. Each track simply does its business and then leaves the dancefloor, sweaty and satisfied.
When it comes to pulsating hooks, the Simian’s have got it made. Take a look at “Hustler”: it’s the sound of the Chemical Brothers under a dirty strobe light, with the sexy female vocalist talking about being broke and wanting to go to a record store instead of being rich and flirting with every guy at the club. Such a lyrical change of pace is not only relatable, but it sounds genuine and — yes — even sexy (a fact that its accompanying video clip exploits to the fullest). The waves of staccato synths that pepper “Hotdog” (as in “Let’s get the rhythm of the hands / Let’s get the rhythm of the feet / Let’s get the rhythm of the hotdog“) are unapologetically modern, riding on a fantastic, fluid bounce. Here we get Daft Punk boiled down to their essence, a Fatboy Slim with half the budget and all the brilliance. A majority of the songs come off as effortless, and that’s really the way to be: you never want to think too much under blacklight.
There are moments when the group brings out school ground rhymes in its (occasional) lyrics, blatantly recalling the kaleidoscopic retro-funk of another great UK dance group: The Go! Team. Yet instead of totally copping the Go! Team’s sound, Simian Mobile Disco do one better: they bring in the Team’s lead female vocalist: Ninja. Her playful faux-rapping colors the propulsive “It’s the Beat”, based around a telegraph-styled base with keyboards crashing in on almost every four-count. It’s a fun, exciting, energetic track (much like all the songs that preceded it). The album makes absolutely no apologies for its relentless pace: this is ass-shaking music in the highest order.
The group displays no immediate influences, but we get glimpses of their favorite artists every once in a while: “I Got This Down” sounds like early Basement Jaxx (fluid basslines and all) and “Tits & Acid” bears down like a more straightforward Lords of Acid (even though the song itself isn’t one of the album’s stronger moments). Even the pop-rock tendencies of the old band Simian rise up on occasion (particularly on “Love”, which already sounds like a song that Of Montreal would like to cover). Though it’s obvious that SMD would love to leave their past behind them, it’s those foundations that inform some of Attack Decay Sustain Release‘s finest moments.
However, not all is well under the disco ball. After the stunning fire-starter of an opener (“Sleep Deprivation”), it’s a disappointment to hear the album end on such a dull note with the keyboard experiments of “Scott”, a meandering mess of a song that ultimately mars a disc that was dangerously close to being an end-to-end crowd pleaser. Even with that in mind, the group’s down and dirty sound is mixed with brevity, giving their whole album a to-the-point feel, wasting very little time. No, this is not the full-fledged underground dance-revolution many were expecting. However, it remains one of the most guaranteed party starters this side of Girl Talk. They don’t need to bum-rush an award show to get your attention: all they need is a dancefloor.