Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Temporary Pleasure - Simian Mobile Disco

The second album from Simian Mobile Disco duo and producers James Ford and Jas Shaw brings with it the familiar baggage of heightened expectations and a plethora of guest vocalists. The division between the electroclash mixes and the purer dance tunes of their debut Attack Decay Sustain Release are now more clearly demarcated. Indeed their albums betray their past allegiances in indie band Simian as they both inhabit a traditional album format, rather than their wide-ranging, scopious DJ sets. This has always been the problem with 'dance' records – stranded from the 12” format most songs feel isolated, a collection of songs rather than a seamless whole.

Moroder-esque throbbing synth bass welcomes the album on 'Cream Dream' before Gruff Rhys continues the electronica work he began with Super Furry Animals and carried throughout the recent Neon Neon album. The retro stylings pulsate and resonate. Groove, texture and rhythm are instantly asserted across the album, but while the dynamics are all in place it feels listless and forced.

On an album such as this the quality and performance of the guest vocalists is paramount. After Rhys' crooning, Chris Keating's stream of consciousness delivery on 'Audacity of Huge' is a welcome change of pace and his Patrick Bateman-esque lament just about stays the right side of satire. Beth Ditto, in a move reminiscent of Hercules vs Love Affair recruiting Antony Hegarty for 'Blind', discovers her inner Candy Staton on 'Cruel Intentions' amidst glistening and perfectly realised programming. It is the standout track, and Ditto's fine vocal turn is far better than anything off the latest Gossip album. Elsewhere Alexis Taylor and Telepathe guest on 'Bad Blood' and 'Pinball' respectively but both songs lack the requisite tension, drama or release to hold your interest.

'10000 Horses Can't Be Wrong' is the best of the three tracks without a guest vocalist, with its glitch beeps and cascading analogue synths. By the time you get to 'Synthesise' however the lack of variety on display starts to wear the listener down. An album shouldn't be a chore to listen to, should it? In the past SMD haven't just blended genres as much as they have ravaged and pillaged leaving hulking husks in their wake, but here they tread a variety of well worn dance furrows.

As an album Temporary Pleasure provides just that; a glossy, unadulterated, voluminous fa├žade covers the work, but it fails to engage beyond this on either an emotional or structural level. Again, it feels forced rather than instinctual. There is nothing wrong with the production work, but song structure, melody and a sense of excitement and narrative are desired in a record and these are only provided on rare occasions. Much of what is on offer is muscular and metronomic dance, supposedly designed to be played in sweaty Balearic clubs or amongst the dross and bilge of city bars. But sneak on a Chemical Brothers record after this and you'll see where Ford and Shaw are going wrong.
This album review of Temporary Pleasure by Simian Mobile Disco was written for the lovely chaps at The Line of Best Fit. Click on the article title to read the review on the site, or go to www.lineofbestfit.com.

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