A few years ago, I spent an afternoon in Camden interviewing a mildly psychedelic indie band called Simian whose first record had been pretty good. To be honest, it was a rather frustrating experience: the singer was quite interesting, if detached, but he didn’t get a chance to say much because the drummer just wouldn’t shut up. With hindsight, the weird power structure made sense. The singer hasn’t done much since, while the drummer – James Ford – has become a dark force in British music, producing Arctic Monkeys and Klaxons and making hip little dance records as Simian Mobile Disco with his old bandmate Jas Shaw.
“Attack Decay Sustain Release” is the first Simian Mobile Disco album, and it’s also the first artist album – as far as I can remember – to emerge from London’s New Rave scene that privileges dance over indie. It’s a scene, I think, that a lot of people desperately want to fail; perceived as a dayglo joke hatched by a bunch of dissolute art students in Shoreditch. Nevertheless, I’d prefer New British bands to try and mix things up a little instead of merely trying to sound like The Libertines. The Klaxon’s album, “Myths Of The Near Future”, was a very good art-pop album, but one where the dance imperative was very much secondary to an indie aesthetic reminiscent of early Blur.
No such issues with “Attack Decay Sustain Release”. It’s a brisk, confident collection that assiduously draws on the dance music that has crossed over to indie kids in the last decade.
So “Tits & Acid” is a reminder that The Chemical Brothers‘ schtick was exciting once upon a time. Daft Punk and that whole French filtered house sound is clearly a big influence, and I can detect Orbital in the lush techno of “Wooden” and “Scott”. Plus there is, fairly inevitably, the sound of early ’00s Hoxton: taut electro complete with blank-eyed dominatrix vocals on the admittedly excellent “Hustler” (inescapable in certain worlds last year, and a paean to shoplifting records).
Old rave appears in this invigorating mix, too, and mercifully seems to be used affection rather than kitsch value: some big breakdowns, not many airhorns. “It’s The Beat”, notably, is indebted to Technotronic, but the vocal by The Go! Team‘s Ninja is so full-bloodedly joyous, it’s difficult to see Simian Mobile Disco as cool kids being ironic.
What they aren’t, I suppose, is tremendously original. Better, perhaps, to think of “Attack Decay Sustain Release” as the return of stadium dance: the sense that two men behind laptops can make a whole festival rock. If that happens, what happens afterwards could be really interesting. . .
In the meantime, have a look at this if you have a moment – I know it’s a questionnaire thing, but there is a chance of a prize.