In 2007, Simian Mobile Disco was in a class of new and exciting electronic dance music along with Digitalism, Justice, and a few others, but stood out because of their poppy approach, attributed to their past as an electronic indie rock group. What made the poppiness so striking was their ability to weave intricate sonic layers as support for the main synth lines and beats, to keep the songs balanced with danceablity as well as an elaborate framework. Unfortunately, their follow-up embraces few of these characteristics, and Simian Mobile Disco have produced a somewhat disappointing sophomore slump.
Temporary Pleasure starts well enough; the opening creeps in subtly, and Gruff Rhys' vocals compliment the introduction nicely. Unfortunately, it never catches fire; unlike Sleep Deprivation, Attack Decay Sustain Release's opener, the back end is painfully lacking, and the main synth line just doesn't have any bite to it. It's definitely got the potential, but it never comes across as more than a watered down ode to Neon Neon.
Audacity of Huge has a much stronger beat, and is extremely catchy, but hosts name-dropping lyrics that border on embarassing; this isn't that big of a deal though, as lyrics do not make or break a dance record, and since Yeasayer's Chris Keating sounds good while he spits them, it is completely forgivable. It's just that bragging about a grape kool-aid filled swimming pool and a mother of pearl fork, no matter how tongue in cheek, is a bit much.
The album starts to build momentum here, as 10,000 Horses Can't Be Wrong, while sounding like a generic B-side to a better single, it's good enough to keep things lively. As is the case with Cruel Intentions, featuring impressive and understated vocals from The Gossip's Beth Ditto; enough to keep things interesting, but nothing that really grabs you. In fact, the album's entire middle is in the highest tier of mediocrity, as is, now that I think of it, most of the album. The hooks are mild, with a minimal musical backdrop, and possess barely any of the bounce that propelled the best songs on the debut.
Bad Blood is able to spring out of this slump, however slightly. The problem here is similar to that with the opener Cream Dream; it sounds like a diluted version of a song by the guest vocalist's band (in this case, Hot Chip). Even still, Bad Blood has got slightly more going on than most else on the album, and it deserves credit for that. Turn Up the Dial, featuring the Young Fathers, is all well and good unless you remember that Neon Neon did this neo-electro/hip-hop mashup much better on Sweat Shop and Luxury Pool, and with that in mind it feels a bit forced and postured here.
Ambulance, which is perhaps the most fully realized track on the record, is very intricate while still having a healthy warmth to it. It's not great, but it's interesting; it has the clean feel of an early Daft Punk track, while maintaining a poppy element to keep it easily memorable.
The problem with Temporary Pleasure is that it's not particularly bad and it's not particularly good, which is disheartening, knowing that SMD is capable of the poppy yet progressive house shown on ADSR. It feels like they had the basic idea of where to go with their follow-up, and rather than build on it, they decided it was good enough and released it as is. For background music with a solid beat, or for a dance club dj in need of a few good mid-tempo tracks for the early evening, Temporary Pleasure fits the bill splendidly. If you're looking for anything resembling their sensational debut though, you'll be sorely disappointed.