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.


Poster Girl said...

I kind of would like to be reading that Jake's vocal style on "Fire With Fire" reappears throughout the album--just personal taste--but despite that, some of those clips still sound pretty appetizing. Nice description of "Harder You Get"...very blurb-worthy...and the clip sounds just as good as you'd hope. I love the build-up to the chorus in "Skin Tight," but it sounds like "Sex and Violence" might be the better song in whole.

xolondon said...

Yes, I agree about the vocal style on Fire With Fire.

Sex And Violence is very, very good. My faves are that, Invisible, Fire, Any Which Way, and Harder.

Interesting too about this trend of no ballads on albums. I find that odd, but Sex And Violence and Fire are kind of balladish.

xolondon said...

Yes, I agree about the vocal style on Fire With Fire.

Sex And Violence is very, very good. My faves are that, Invisible, Fire, Any Which Way, and Harder.

Interesting too about this trend of no ballads on albums. I find that odd, but Sex And Violence and Fire are kind of balladish.

Paul said...

Fire is sort of a non-ballad isn't it? I think it's still quite lovely and agree with PG about the great vocal style on it. I'd love Any Which Way to be the next single, particularly with that spot on seductively purred middle 8 by Ana. So great.

I personally think that there could be a myriad of singles from this project - i mean there was from Ta-Dah despite the law of diminishing returns.

John said...

It was already a given that I would want this CD immediately upon release, but this review has gotten my hopes up in a good way. Who needs ballads when you have amazing midtempo tracks like "Fire with Fire"?

Jason said...

Thanks for your review. I can't wait to hear the album in its entirety!

Anonymous said...


That is all - what a grower though, miles and miles better than Ta-dah!

Who else but the scissors could make an album that you could conceivably grind/lip synch all the way through - 'Music for sexual creatures to watch boys go by to'

Insanity - and thankyou for the breakdown - you are spot on as usual Monsieur XO


P.S. Sex and Violence is superb, and our mutual admiration for Fire with Fire is TOTALLY JUSTIFIED in context - this is one of their greatest songs - a gorgeous understated masterpiece (especially when it goes mental and all twangy and stuff...)

DanProject76 said...

I've got the CD now and played it quite a few times. Oddly, I find the most obviously Scissor Sisters tracks the least interesting! I'm tired of the BeeGees-style tracks with all the sex references. I sound like an old prude now.

Love Inivisible Light (as anyone should) and always liked Fire With Fire. Standout new tracks for me are, in order, Running Out (unlike you I think this is one of the best on the album, just loving the bass and other sounds on it) , Skin Tight and Sex & Violence. This must mean I am a massive Stuart Price fan although his work with Madonna left me cold (maybe due to her low-temperature soul?). Good album though and their Glastonbury set was fantastic!

Adrian said...

I have to admit I'm a little disappointed by the album.

I think trailing Invisible Light was a mistake, as it is proper fantastic amazing brilliantness, but sounds nothing like anything else on the album.

What with all their talk of rediscovering disco, I thought we'd be set for a whopping dance album, but it's more of the same style as the last album.

Saying that, some of the songs are really good and I do love Ana's monologues, but it's the direction I'm not sure of.