Current single "Audacity of Huge" (with the clever and sassy help of Chris Keating of Yeasayer) and YouTube-approved semi-hit "10000 Horses Can't Be Wrong" (er, what?) both showcase a bouncy beat and a crisp synthetic melody, the former destined for early evening airplay and the latter for peak-time elation. The struggle between pop immediacy and electronic inventiveness that SMD couldn't be more apparent, and we're are barely three tracks in.
The upfront pop tracks work best, though, and there a plenty of them: "Cruel Intentions," with the ever-engaging Beth Ditto, showing up in subtle, quieter mode then on her work with The Gossip, delivers a slice of present-day disco that is heavily indebted to Donna Summer (and all the better for it) while "Off the Map", featuring the vocal antics of the debonair Jamie Lidell, is a cool slice of Moroderesque effects and tricks.
Even better are "Synthesize," a huge dance cut that samples Todd Rundgren's 1975 oddity "Born to Synthesize" and turns it into a weird, tribal-like anthem that is both joyful and exuberant, and "Bad Blood," a brief moment of contemplative electro-pop given over to Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor. This versatile parti pris unfortunately doesn't always work. For instance, "Turn Up the Dial," featuring newcomer trio Young Fathers, is an awkward take on Dizzee Rascal-esque populist grime, while the Brooklyn-based trio Telepathe can't do anything to salvage album-closer "Pinball" from feeling like mere last-minute filler.
Those looking for the kind of "Sleep Deprivation"-like, dance floor-oriented side of the duo's music should hunt down the limited edition CD version of the album that comes with a second disc. It includes instrumentals like "Flea in Your Ear," "Are You in the Picture?" and "Babaghanoush," which have a "Mind of a Machine"-era Carl Craig vibe. It says a lot about the incredible talent that Shaw and Ford posses. Instead of having to produce with guest vocalists around, the self-imposed pop ethos of CD1 gives way to 30 minutes of complex technoïd excursions that have the same visceral impact as a SMD live performance.
That both SMD members have become in-demand producers and remixers over the past few years tells you something about their studio flair and mastery of the pop-with-indie-credibility genre, but until they find a way to reconcile their inherent struggles and morph them into some sort of overarching synthesis in their own music, fans will be left both satisfied but also, at times, confused. Temporary pleasures, indeed.
Tue / 15 Sep 2009
01. Cream Dream feat. Gruff Rhys
02. Audacity of Huge feat. Chris Keating
03. 10000 Horses Can't Be Wrong
04. Cruel Intentions feat. Beth Ditto
05. Off The Map feat. Jamie Lidell
07. Bad Blood feat. Alexis Taylor
08. Turn Up The Dial feat. Young Fathers
10. Pinball feat. Telepathe