Scissor Sisters: Night Work

by thethreepennyguignol

Disco-not dance, not pop, not rock-but disco is next to impossible to get right. You’ve got to clash together silly, irrepressibly catchy music with theoretically singable lyrics and an intensely concentrated sense of fun. And Scissor Sisters have had a decent crack at disco a few times before their third album -from the magnificent slice of retro-pop I Don’t Feel Like Dancing to the electronic feel of breakthrough single Filthy/Gorgeous, they were hardly strangers to the genre. But, after a four-year break and a song that inexplicably featured Ian Mckellan, they returned on the back of a snarling twelve-track disco beast, Night Work.

I’m of the opinion that an album’s opener should define everything that’s going to follow, and the first number-from which the album takes it’s name- is a wildly confident, sleazy, sexy snark against critics of their earlier, softer sound. Whatever your opinion on lead singer Jake Shears, you’ve got to admire his ability to control his camp; he can go from crooning falsetto filth to delivering straight-up power in a second, and does so on about half the songs on the album. The single that sounds most like a single, Fire with Fire, features a soft, slick piano intro that rises into a rich piece of well-considered disco-balladry, and this comes down mostly to Shears’ confidence and charisma. I will always argue that, with their forte undoubtedly being indulgently entertaining pop, Scissor Sisters can turn on the serious to devastating affect (see first album close Return to Oz), and Night Work is no exception.

And by this point, the rest of the band have been working and performing together long enough for every track to sound like a thousand tiny layers working in perfect; see the complex symmetry in Any Which Way for proof (listen out for the underused Ana Matronic’s hilarious spoken-word segment over the bridge).

But what makes this album work above their others is how well the tracks hang together as a whole. While previously they’d put together a bunch of great numbers that just happened to live on the CD, Night Work works almost exclusively when you listen to the whole thing at once. No song sounds like it shouldn’t be there; every number adds the either a necessary shot of outrageous disco funk (Something Like This, Skin Tight) or surprising melancholy (Running Out, Invisible Light) disguised as outrageous disco funk. Basically, the album is summed up by it’s cover art; a 1983 black-and-white close-up shot of the rear end of an attractive male dancer. Sleazy, silly, eye-catching and deliciously retro.