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.
Simian Mobile Disco’s sophomore effort, Temporary Pleasure, is a different ecstasy-soaked pacifier altogether. The songs are better, the guest performers more exciting and enthused, and the production varied enough to highlight the differences between each track (which wasn’t always the case on the previous album). But most important, the pleasure of Temporary Pleasure is anything but temporary.
Attack was undeniably Simian Mobile Disco’s album. They never let the guest performers outshine the icy rhythms they laid down. Temporary Pleasure, meanwhile, has the spotlight firmly on the guest performers, who all sound more than at home on the album. “Cruel Intentions,” Beth Ditto’s tale of playing hearts late at night that would fit well on a late-’90s R&B compilation, justifies her major label contract in a way Gossip’s Music for Men, didn’t. She finally earns the dance-diva tag that’s been alleged since she started out. Jamie Lidell’s “you be the space, I’ll be the invader” come-on on “Off the Map” sounds blissfully spaced-out over the neo-funk Simian lay down for him, while the chilling tropical thrust of “Bad Blood” works well as an antithesis to Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor’s typically heartbroken sentiments.
Those previously mentioned stars of the NME set fall short to performances from a pair of Brooklyn bands on the album’s best tracks, however. Telepathe’s “Pinball” sounds like a remixed Telepathe track with better harmonies, but it removes the muck that often prevents Telepathe’s songs from connecting the way they should. There’s not a better advertisement for Simian Mobile Disco’s production of rock bands than that track. Yeasayer’s Chris Keating sounds like the opposite of his normal doomsday-predicting self on “Audacity of Huge,” detailing a lengthy list of all the stuff he’s got (a grape Kool-Aid filled swimming pool, a digital picture frame, sorbet, a duplex in Brunei and some weed called “Bill Murray”) while sounding pissed that he doesn’t get the girl he’s reading the list to. It’s part love song, part Richie Rich dream fantasy, and Keating has never sounded so jubilant and carefree.
There is one big similarity that Temporary Pleasure shares with Attack: the fact that album’s least moving tracks are the instrumentals. On tracks like “10,000 Horses Can’t Be Wrong,” “Synthesize” and “Ambulance” Simian Mobile Disco revert to being half-decent DJs and producers with a great Rolodex and a decent recording budget. There’s nothing distinct about the instrumentals: they sound like every other house single crafted on European soil since 1997. But when they’re creating mammoth dance music edifices for other performers to do their thing in, Simian Mobile Disco are second to none. Once they can catch their instrumentals up to their guest-featuring tracks, there will be nothing stopping them.