”I think I need a rubber tonight,” offers Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears. New York’s disco??new wave party people are in freak mode on their third disc Night Work, dropping crass come-ons and slutty entendres like parade confetti (gay, straight, you name it). The songs are pretty spicy too, mixing Elton John, the Bee Gees, and Depeche Mode in strobe-light heaven.
Three years in the making, Scissor Sisters are finally ready to debut their third studio recording, Night Work. No surprise here—it’s a dance album filled to the brim with beats that could make even a corpse twitch. Fans of the band’s throwback disco vibe have a handful of tracks to cling to, but for those of us who are turned off by the Barry Gibb falsetto (I still haven’t forgiven them for that mediocre bathhouse cover of “Comfortably Numb”) there is some intriguing diversification.
Because of their flamboyance and aggressive pursuit of camp appeal, it’s easy to overlook how smart Scissor Sisters is about their approach to pop. To that end, their latest effort, Night Work, is the band’s most successful and fully realized work to date. The asstastic Mapplethorpe photograph on the cover isn’t just used for shock value: It’s a perfect choice for an album that approaches leering as its primary raison d’être.
If the cover of Night Work did not clue you in, let's just state the obvious right now: This is a very, very gay album. Whereas the first two Scissor Sisters records found a way to translate specifically gay subject matter into big-tent camp that opened up their appeal to anyone with a taste for colorful dance music and 1970s radio pop, their third album isn't quite as inclusive. They are no less tuneful, but their aesthetic and lyrical themes are more firmly rooted in gay culture, to the point that many straight listeners may find themselves feeling like outsiders looking in.
Scissor Sisters completed and then scrapped an entire album before Night Work, not only ditching arrangements and mixes but an entire set of songs. When they re-entered the studio, it was with producer Stuart Price, whose work with artists from Madonna to Kylie to Pet Shop Boys to the Killers proved his hit-making potential -- and whose music, including the excellent Darkdancer as Les Rythmes Digitales, is one of the best love letters to the '80s dance scene ever produced. Price ably provides the '80s in full force, with obvious touchstones from Duran Duran to Giorgio Moroder to Prince to Kenny Loggins' "Footloose" to Pet Shop Boys.
"Now we're free to be No 1," sings Jake Shears on Fire With Fire, which demands the response: "Well, we'll see about that". The Scissor Sisters scrapped an album's worth of material before Shears decamped to Berlin for inspiration and Madonna-associate Stuart Price was brought in to co-produce. The result imagines where 80s dance music would have gone if Aids had never existed; apparently, it would have stayed where it was, with glittering synth-pop and a ravenous approach to sex as the fulcrum.
There is an overall lack of animating passion to be found on Night Work, the third Scissor Sisters album, some barely tangible quality that would otherwise transform these songs into something inspired rather than something merely competent that is simply missing here. As unfair as it may be to hold the band’s biography against them, the circumstances surrounding the making of Night Work turn out to be especially telling: having spent a year and a half in the studio recording what was to be the follow up to Ta-Dah (2006), the band (whose original drummer Paddy Boom quit during this period, here replaced by the as-goofily-named Randy Real) ended up scrapping entirely the fruits of this labor, grabbing superstar producer Stuart Price (who had previously done some remixes for the band) to help put together what turns out to be exactly the by-no-means disastrous yet largely safe, middling and even exhausted-sounding effort that such a back story would suggest. What makes Night Work so particularly disappointing is how it finds the Scissor Sisters coming off of two of the most dazzlingly brilliant pop albums of the previous decade.
Scissor Sisters' electro-pop defined mainstream music in the Noughties, with every producer, songwriter and pop artist clawing for a bit of their success. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, though possibly not when that imitation is Mika. Even though Scissor Sisters have been consumed, digested and regurgitated by the mainstream, ‘Comfortably Numb’ was still a defining moment in pop.
A far livelier and more enjoyable record than 2006’s Ta-Dah. Jaime Gill 2010 It’s obviously unwise to begin a pop career with a dull, dreary album, but it can also be a curse to start out with anything too glitteringly good. Take the oddly parallel careers of Franz Ferdinand and Scissor Sisters: both released brilliant self-titled debuts in February 2004 which grabbed the zeitgeist and gobbled the charts, then rushed out disappointing follow-ups and found themselves mired in false starts while recording nightlife-themed third offerings.