Don’t you just love it when a band’s name is exceptionally fitting? The Clash is probably the perfect example, but cases can be made for many, including LCD Soundsystem and Daft Punk. The name Simian Mobile Disco might not be apparently clever, but the fact that these `DJ’s’ (the British use the term Mobile Disco) use relatively primitive dance music technology makes things a little clearer. There’s more than just the similarity of an apt name between Simian Mobile Disco and the latter two names referenced above. Like DFA (of which LCD’s James Murphy is a member) and Daft Punk, SMD is a duo that helped make a name for itself by remixing and production work. In SMD’s case, the most notable work was for Air, The Go! Team, Klaxons, The Arctic Monkeys and Mystery Jets. Also like the above, that work was simply the tip of a much more talented iceberg. Attack Decay Sustain Release is an album chock full of masterfully produced dance music that runs the gamut of house, acid, new wave and ’80s synth. One can tell in listening to ADSR that the two James’, Shaw and Ford, take their art seriously, but have a great time doing so.
“Sleep Deprivation” opens the album much like Daft Punk’s Homework opens, with beats and bleeps coming out of a hazy fog or distortion. The ensuing stops and starts, fade-outs, fade-ins and driving new wave rhythms reminiscent of early Depeche Mode or “Blue Monday” give this song its charm and likeability. “I Got This Down” proves that new wave isn’t the only thing the two James’ were listening to back in the day as the vocals seem directly taken from an early Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Flash or Afrka Bambaataa record. “It’s the Beat” celebrates dance music in its basest elements. Ninja from Go! Team provides the vocal flavor, with the combination of primitive electro and simple vocals reminding me of the Breakin’ or Beat Street soundtracks. Essentially, it’s the perfect song with which to do `the Robot,’ thanks to the various electronic bleats and robot voices. Sweet. Plus, Ninja gives an unintended shout-out to her favorite little webzine when she declares who holds the top spot in her heart, as `it’s one for the Treble.’
“The Hustler” finds its female narrator going to the `rekkid’ store and shoplifting to the dirty rhythms and LCD-like synth tweaks. There are no apologies here, only the defiant (if not broken English) question, “what the fuck is you gonna do?” There’s no real answer to that question, other than `dance.’ Like any great dance album, there has to be at least one song with a cheeky title, and for SMD it’s “Tits & Acid,” a track with air raid sirens, a frantically paced bassline and what seemingly sounds like the remixed drum track from “Bizarre Love Triangle.” “I Believe” is a definite standout track, far more relaxed than the previous tracks, with a laid back vocal style and more of a chillout groove. Think Erasure, Yaz, Soft Cell, Air, the Pet Shop Boys or Human League. “Wooden” is what I would imagine playing in that scene in The Matrix Reloaded if it were set in post-apocalyptic Japan rather than a dirty underground cave. “Love” impresses with its ’80s Duran Duran style bass bending and slick fey vocal delivery recalling the days of Alphaville, ABC and A-ha, which makes me think that maybe Simian Mobile Disco should be called “Ape Mobile Disco” for this single’s release thanks to the alliteration. “Scott” brings us back to that post-apocalyptic Japan feel, as if they were channeling Vangelis’ soundtrack from Blade Runner, which may or may not be the reason for the song’s title, possibly named after director Ridley Scott. Am I onto something here?
In the end, Attack Decay Sustain Release is an incredible dance record. It’s not breaking any boundaries; in fact, it purposefully goes back in time to celebrate what has been infectious about dance music for the past 30 years. Hip-hop, new wave, pop, rave and house all find niches here, with Ford and Shaw producing the hell out of each and every track. As far as dance records go, ADSR is pretty darn flawless. Along with Daft Punk’s Homework or either of the two LCD albums, it’s one of those records that you can play in its entirety and have one heck of a party. If you’re the DJ at your own party, playing this record of varied dance genres could afford you a guilt-free forty minutes to mingle with your hot, dancing and sweaty guests! As a bonus, it’ll save you from that inevitable `ear to headphones to shoulder’ crick in your neck, at least for a while.