Friday, May 25th 2012
Reviews: Scissor Sisters
It’s been a long two years since the Scissor Sisters unleashed the near-perfect Night Work on the pop world. Since then, the genre has seen some major disappointments (see: Madonna & Lady Gaga) but luckily the band is back in fine form with Magic Hour, their most eclectic record yet (and a glowing-endorsement infomercial by QOTSA’s Joshua Homme).
Stylistically, Magic Hour covers more ground than your average pop album. There are plenty of tracks primed for club play, a few slower, borderline-ballad tracks and everything in between. The band worked with a large number of contributors on the record (everyone from Boys Noize to Pharrell), leading to a clash of sounds that somehow still manages to come together as a cohesive record.
Things start off strong with Baby Come Home, a piano driven track that is sure to reignite comparisons between the Scissters and Elton John. Co-written by none other than John Legend, the track has real soul and one of the best hooks on the record, not to mention relatable lyrics about a lover who stays out just a bit too late at night.
Keep Your Shoes is a complete style change from the opening track, ditching the piano and replacing it with a dancehall beat and sweeping club synths. Lyrically we have Jake Shears listing things he’d like to do with a partner, but asking him to leave his footwear on as to not waste any time. This track has club potential and it’ll be interesting to see if it takes off or not.
Things sail to sexy slow jam island during Inevitable, co-written and produced by Pharrell (err, the Neptunes). A bongo and drum machine offer the entirety of the track’s rhythm section as 70s soul keyboard and the falsetto of Mr. Jake Shears provide the meat and potatoes of the song. The track conjures up images of a very hairy man in a tank top, lying on a heart shaped bed (probably with zebra sheets), while the Bee Gees play on in the background — more than likely the precise vibe the band was going for. It’s campy, fantastic and a distinct creation of the Scissor Sisters.
Unfortunately Only The Horses does not share the unique Scissor Sisters vibe. Produced by Calvin Harris (also responsible for Rihanna’s We Found Love), Only The Horses is a casualty of cookie-cutter chart pop, indistinguishable from most of what’s on the radio. If we were to switch out the vocals with Rihanna or Katy Perry, one would never know this was originally a Scissor Sisters track. The song has already been released as a single and has found a little success on that front, but it’s disappointing that this is one of the tracks chosen to represent the record.
Luckily Year of Living Dangerously gets Magic Hour back on track. The song features reverb-heavy drums that sound straight out of Berlin’s Take My Breath Away and what sound like Casio keyboard oohs and aahs; By the time some heavy orchestral work comes in during the last third of the song it seals the deal, Year of Living Dangerously is easily the best 80s song released in 2012.
Let’s Have a Kiki starts as a message that female vocalist Ana Matronic is leaving on someone’s phone. Describing her night of trying to get her party on, Matronic’s story quickly turns into a dance track that sounds as though someone tossed Madonna’s Vogue and RuPaul’s Supermodel into a blender with an extra helping of club beats and ridiculous lyrics. This song is set to become a staple of gay clubs for approximately the next 100 years, so if that’s what the band was aiming for they certainly succeeded.
Shady Love is another club banger, featuring Azealia Banks and production from Boys Noize. The track finds Jake Shears rapping his way over sharp synth hits with more swagger than you’d probably expect from him. It’s very different from anything the band has ever done but it’s definitely a style they can pull off.
After the oddly placed (and tiki-torch island sounding) San Luis Obispo, the band uses the track Self Control to channel early 90s house music. Shades of Crystal Waters’ Gypsy Woman instantly come to mind, but instead of la da dee la dee da’s, we get Jake Shears singing oversexed lines while the beat continues to relentlessly bore into your brain, sure to reappear later in the day as you hum the track’s insanely infectious melody.
Best In Me brings back the dancehall sounding beat from Keep Your Shoes, but offers far more introspective lyrics about the positive effects a good relationship can have on an individual. It’s a little bit different in tone from a lot of the Scissor Sisters work, but it helps keep things balanced on the record and really rounds out the back half of the album.
The Secret Life of Letters sounds like it was lifted from the band’s 2004 debut record, a whimsical and sad sounding song featuring one of Jake Shears strongest vocal performances. It’s a haunting song with some beautiful orchestral work, and while it’s a departure from the rest of Magic Hour, it remains a highlight.
If dance clubs had a unique brand of gospel music, Somewhere would be a standard. Filled with soaring synths and a buzzing drum and bass track, the song is a prime example of the band’s ability to create simple pop songs that really stick with you. It’s not the best song on the album, but it does a solid job of tying things up and closing out the disc.
Magic Hour is easily the best pop record this far into 2012. The album covers an insane amount of musical terrain, offering something for anyone who craves the kind of song that will get stuck in your head and never leave. While the album features more collaborations than ever for the group, they’ve largely maintained their uniqueness, crafting a damn fine record in the process.