The Church Of Me
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Kissing in the churchyard, I know a righteous woman

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Firstly I have to say that I don’t care about the questionable indie past of Simian Mobile Disco; while they almost never impinged upon my musical planet as plain Simian, if I were going to dismiss every indie chancer going dance then I would have to bid farewell to the Beloved and the Shamen and the KLF, amongst numerous others. What matters is what they are capable of doing now.

Secondly, however, I have to admit that some you just don’t, or can’t, win. I invested in their new album Attack Decay Sustain Release on the basis of a fantastic track entitled “It’s The Beat” featuring Her Out Of The Go! Team, and it remains fantastic, the vocal thrusting along like prime Neneh Cherry, floating in and out of Marshall Jefferson caverns of synth poignancy and Robert’s Robots bleeps and squibbles until the track’s arch rises triumphantly with multiple electropeals which recapture what it was like to sit on the top deck and watch St Paul’s Cathedral imperiously nudge itself into sky-dominating view halfway down Fleet Street on a briskly bright Saturday morning in July.

They reproduce something of that magic in the album’s opening track, the instrumental “Sleep Deprivation” which again carefully builds up from its bare bones of creeping beats and a suspiciously familiar New Pop chord sequence (at least for its first four chords - which irritatingly I can’t place at the moment) through added harmonic intricacies, layering yet more strata of spaces until it boldly bursts forth with an imperiously gorgeous melody and the beat now feeling like a punchbag, after which it once again settles into accomplished peace.

Alas, the rest of the record doesn’t really live up to these two gems. It has been reasonably criticised elsewhere for the indecision of its mix; whereas Justice, for instance, hold rhythm and melody, force and persuasion, in equal value, and are thus able to maximise the profundity of both, Simian Mobile Disco tend to focus on treble detail at the expense of bass response, so we get a lot of interesting ideas but no real pegs on which to hang them; for instance, the little five-note synth bass slalom dovetailing downwards to rejoin the main riff of “I Got This Down” is a splendid detail, but lost in the rather overbearing processed vocal.

Indeed, “It’s The Beat” aside, they may have been better advised to skip on the vocals. “Hustler” is a nicely dark electro scratch (Bassomatic crosses Sweet Exorcist’s street) marred by a ludicrous voiceover about going to a record store and stealing its stock, delivered in the kind of smug faux-juvenile tones which momentarily make one contemplate the possible benefits of reintroducing National Service. “I Believe” is a dreary drudge of a below par 1987 Belouis Some B-side. And one has to say NO to the lads’ own vocals on “Love,” so weedy (especially when attempting couplings like “Skin tight, so hot”) that you want to invest in a new lawn mower.

Overall Attack Decay Sustain Release comes across as another of those serviceable records released by the likes of Jade 4U and Baby Ford at the turn of the nineties; more to listen to than to experience, or soak in, or luxuriate in; while one instinctively applauds their efforts to resuscitate the spirit of 1989 with the likes of “Tits & Acid,” the reality, precisely because the rhythm is pushed back and thereby made in practical terms undanceable, doesn’t fulfil the promise. Sometimes the trebly overload works in their favour, as on the excellent “Wooden” (of which a full and better version appears on the bonus disc of remixes), whilst at other times, for example the closing “Scott,” one is simply reminded of Vangelis interpreting the old Harlech TV call sign theme. If you consider it the equivalent of buying three very fine singles then invest; but get the Justice album and about a hundred others ahead of it.

posted by Marcello Carlin Permalink
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