Flamboyant pop/rock band Scissor Sisters have never shied away from sex. After all, their name itself comes from tribadism, a lesbian sexual practice. In that vein, Night Work is the album the group was always destined to make. From "Night Work" to "Invisible Light" it's a 12-track non-stop party of an album with nary a weepy "Mary" or "Land of a Thousand Words" in sight.
Since the new wave revival really got going in 2004, the '80s have been a major source for inspiration, although lately it's not been enough to have songs with '80s elements--people have turned to flat out making '80s music (see La Roux, Goldfrapp's recent album, etc.). Scissor Sisters appear to be doing the same this time, with production duty from Stuart Price (Madonna's Confessions on a Dance Floor, The Killers' Day & Age). Whereas Scissor Sisters and Ta-Dah used the disco '70s and synth pop '80s as historical references, Night Work jumps into the time machine and embraces those eras full on.
Thus "Night Work" bristles with such early '80s energy you might as well switch out "Scissor" for "Pointer," and "Whole New Way" could easily have been a discard during George Michael's 1987 "I Want Your Sex" recording session, although what was racy then seems downright chaste in 2010 as delivered by Jake "I think I need a rubber tonight" Shears. "Fire with Fire," despite being the current single, doesn't quite fit with the rest of the album's fiery first third, if only because its earnest Chariots-of-Fire-meets-The-Killers sound isn't as seedy as its album neighbors.
The album's opening quartet is really perfect and the best of the bunch is the campy disco stomper "Any Which Way," which is so perfectly realized that you can't help but envision leisure suits, mirrorballs and lighted dance floors. Plus you get Ana Matronic's hilarious spoken-word bridge: "You know baby when I was taking my panty hose out of their egg this evening I thought, 'I'm gonna find that man who's the right shade of bottle tan--a man that smells like cocoa butter and cash. Take me any way you like it...'" You said it Ana!
Ms. Matronic isn't the only horny member here. Jake unleashes his slutty growl on the hard-edged "Harder You Get," which sounds like the soundtrack to a sleazy '70s dungeon evening. "Running Out" begins with the sound of panting before trotting out its early '80s dance pop sound. "Something Like This" thrusts its highly processed synthesizer sound to the fore.
Ana takes lead vocal duty on "Skin This Cat," another '80s derivative, which is surely a metaphor for something that I can't even guess at ("come here kitty kitty skin this cat" hmmm...). Then there's more flesh on display in the next song, "Skin Tight," which wasn't a standout at first, but has grown on me with repeat listens. A Confessions on a Dancefloor-like seamless transition brings "Sex and Violence," a moody dance pop groove that recalls the 2005 Madonna work on which Price made his name. Its relative calm is a bit of a reprieve before the fast-tempo of "Night Life." I'm having to force myself to listen to it because I know what's coming...
...the completely fantastic closing number "Invisible Light," surely the best album closer this year. This glittery piece of disco lasts over 6 minutes, the longest song on the album, and includes a fun cameo of Ian McKellan (whom I once met, by the way) saying goofy things like "sailor's lust and swagger lazing in the moon's beams, whose laser gaze penetrates this sparkling theater of excess and strobed lights." Okay, I must confess, I just got up and danced in my living room to about half this song, it's just too good not to. What a way to end with a bang.
This was the album I was anticipating the most this first half of 2010, and I'm pleased that its exceeded my expectations. It may very well be their best album yet. It's definitely the band's most cohesive work, a real workout of an album that will leave you feeling used and abused...in a good way. Who needs a cigarette?
Best: Any Which Way, Whole New Way, Invisible Light, Fire with Fire, Night Work, Harder You Get, Skin Tight