June 13, 2010
Track by track: Scissor Sisters' Night Work
Contrary to the image above, Scissor Sisters is still a band with five members. The fifth member is not Stuart Price, whose production work invigorates the band's third album. Though it was inspired by Jake's time in Berlin, and recorded in London, Night Work screams New York at it finest. For me, that city is the fifth Scissor Sister.
The sound of the album is more classically Scissters than the (great) songs released so far, which bear a stronger imprint of Stuart Price. Night Work is bounds ahead of its sometimes neutered predecessor, Tah-Da. It's imbued with the band's foxy spirit.
Here is a track by track:
Night Work, the song, is redolent of the album's most frequent sound: surging disco rock. There are crunchy geeeetars all over this album. The chorus is in falsetto and the vibe reminds me of, strangely, ZZ Top's Legs.
Whole New Way is rubbery funk, with Jake singing in that sort of "cracked" voice he sometimes assumes. The line that leaps out from this song is: "I think I need a rubber tonight." Mmmm hmmmm. The chorus is very elastic and Cameo-esque and there's a superb, anthemic middle eight.
Fire With Fire is understated and gorgeous. When placed in context with the whole album, it is only "sad disco" song, with Jake singing in his most pure, vulnerable voice. I adore this song and I think fans will eventually understand it.
Any Which Way is a major standout. Funky disco - think Studio 54 in 1978. Jake doing his Bee Gees vocals, with a chorus notable for a zigzagging bass sound (I guess that's what it is?). The highlight is the middle eight, a hilarious Ana Matronic monologue about taking her pantyhose out of their egg (a nice reference to retro Leggs hose) and fucking in front of... I won't give that bit away. Nice cascading vocals in the final minute, along with stabbing synth strings, hooting and random Vincent Price-y laughter. Classic Scissor Sisters.
Harder You Get, another highlight, is a rock moment. Again, Jake with the vocal affectations, which makes the lead single an anomaly. I love the southern fried rock sound of Harder You Get. It's like 38 Special... if they were cruising men outside a 76 Truck Stop. "What I really want to do tonight is toughen you up.... stop crying like a child, you got what you want..." Some nice Velvet Underground doo doo doo doos mixed in. Totally BALLS OUT, this one.
Running Out reminds me a lot of Ladyhawke, who sources some of the same sounds as Scissters. This is a party song, a tipsy singalong. "We're running out of money, of love, of luck." Not my favorite for its repetitive chorus, but very much classic Scissters.
Something Like This reference robots, apropos for it's synthetic vocals. My reaction is somewhat indifferent, but I sense it could be a single thanks to an earworm chorus.
Skin This Cat is Ana's short, sharp moment (it's 2:40). This reminds me a lot of Gary Numan's Cars, but with a breathy, sexiness. Really pleasing, this one, like a soundtrack to PacMen, circa 1982.
Skin Tight is a chugging mid-tempo, the second track with a strong Stuart Price influence. A sibling to Fire With Fire, it's less melancholy, but could also be a single. This plants Scissters firmly in 2010 - no retro references here - and it bleeds seamlessly into the next song...
Sex And Violence is a personal favorite, a slow burn with quieter vocals. "I can't escape the need for sex and violence... who's gonna make you cry?" Lyrically, I think this is one of the stronger tracks - very psychological. It has a nice buildup in the middle eight, though it never goes crazy (or, if you read that negatively, never totally lifts off). Sex And Violence SCREAMS for a mashup with Bronksi Beat's Smalltown Boy.
Night Life is a hyper 1982 pastiche - you could probably chant oh Mickey, you're so fine against the instrumental - but it has some nice drumming on the chorus.
Invisible Light is the grand finale. An over-the top, 1970's style jean creamer. I've raved about it before. This is an immense, dramatic finale to the album and one of the top 5 finest Scissters moments.
Night Work may not leap out immediately. It ditches the Elton loving chart-reaching of Ta-Dah, which is welcome, and replaces that with a mood that is more sinewy, sleazy and tough, yet still very much pop. The melodies are here, but they are more subtle... and that's often a good sign an album won't wear out its groove too fast.
Night Work is out June 28 and 29 worldwide.