Simian Mobile Disco
Attack Decay Sustain Release
ance music your average indie kid wouldn’t be ashamed to dance to” is the tagline for the mercifully brief debut album by Simian Mobile Disco, the trendy production duo formed from the ashes of early ‘00s indie no-hopers Simian, who, having pushed buttons for Arctic Monkeys and the Klaxons, have found themselves at the heart of the “nu-rave” scene. The problem is that the only people likely to dance to Attack Decay Sustain Release are reprehensible indie poseurs who don’t know any better.
Take the proud-to-be-dumb refrain from recent single “It’s the Beat”; “You know it's the one for the treble / Two for the bass / It’s the beat.” There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the sentiment or delivery, except that the massacre of a mixing job on ADSR means there practically is no bass, just hemorrhaging mid-range, while the beat is remedial at best. Fittingly the hook is voiced by Ninja from the Go Team, another indie-go-dance group who produced a similarly sonically-offensive debut album.
It’d be OK if Simian Mobile Disco loved the idiom they were working within, but they don’t appear to; there is nowhere near the kind of attention to detail, both sonic and emotional, that LCD Soundsystem demonstrates and which implies real investment in one’s subject. Their aesthetic is an affectation rather than a passion.
Which is a problem that runs through the core of Attack Decay Sustain Release; there’s no understanding of the dynamic and evolution of dancing here, no knowledge of how to build a mood to a climax, no sense of the narrative of a DJ set or all-nighter. Instead, we get 30 minutes of low-budget attention-deficit-disco that requires serious imbibing of snakebite & black to make it tolerable, let alone danceable. Simian Mobile Disco have attempted to inveigle “dance music” into the aesthetic of messy, clumsy indie-rock without immersing themselves within it and understanding it; as a result they slam some second-hand signifiers together wantonly and end up sounding like witless Daft Punk rip-offs.
Sure, there are hooks aplenty, but they’re mushed into a production job that’s so caustically lacking in detail and depth, so over-inflated and etch-a-sketched in timbre, that it’s almost unlistenable on anything but the most rudimentary of laptop speakers. And listening to music on a computer is like cooking bacon in a microwave; you can do it, but you really shouldn’t. Especially if you’re wanting to dance.
Let’s tear some individual tracks apart: “Love” includes a vocal from Barry Dobbin of defunct indie clunkers Clor and is a shameless attempt to rip-off “Love Is All”; the ennui-dripping vocal in “Hustler” about stealing from a record store makes me want to happy slap anyone I catch listening to it; “Scott” is bad ambient that sounds like the incidental music for when Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock beam down to a polystyrene planet and run around a bit; “Hotdog” takes a schoolyard rhyme and hipsterises it, sucking all the vitality and fun out in the process.
Perhaps this is an example of indie people co-opting techniques from the mainstream as if that somehow qualifies as taking the machine down from within; it doesn’t, but this doesn’t matter anyway, because the point is not revolution but hedonism, and brainless binge-hedonism at that. Real hedonism is a long-term, contemplative luxuriation which doesn’t involve vomiting. Binge-hedonism is perhaps capitalism’s strongest ideological state apparatus in 2007; Simian Mobile Disco are little more than a witless cog in the machine.