43:46 min • Casablanca • May 28, 2012
Formed in 2000 as an expression of the sleazy underground gay scene in New York, the Scissor Sisters (a slang term for lesbians) have almost been unrecognisable as the band that broke out in 2004 with their electrodisco cover of Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’. I’d already heard their remix of Bucci Bag’s ‘More Lemonade’, which was big on the electro scene, and their beautifully shimmering electro ballad ‘It Can’t Come Quickly Enough’, which played over the end credits of the ultimate hipstar freak film Party Monster. I loved their first album, Scissor Sisters. ‘Tits On The Radio’ and ‘Return To Oz’ were spectacularly edgy pop songs. Then they started working with Elton John and it all went a bit wrong. I liked one song off Ta Dah (the amazing glam-clash of ‘Kiss You Off’) but since ‘I Don’t Feel Like Dancing’ (which ironically made me feel like not dancing) I very rapidly gave up on them! The more popular they got, or so it seemed, the more they sounded like Elton John and the more they became the ideal band for gay men and middle aged women. There was a glimmer of hope with Night Work, where Stuart Price gave them a shimmer of Berlin Sleaze Disco, but when I heard the list of collaborators for Magic Hour (Calvin Harris and Boys Noize being the most interesting) I wasn’t convinced.
Pressing play on my iTunes and hearing the opening piano of ‘Baby Come Home’ didn’t exactly fill me with confidence. It’s an ok song, reminiscent musically of ‘Laura’, but this hadn’t been what I’d hoped for. Then track 2, ‘Keep Your Shoes’, hit me like a brick in the face. A slinky minimal electro pop song about needing to have sex with someone so badly that you don’t even want to waste time taking their shoes off … This was exactly what I was hoping for.
Changing the pace slightly, there follows the slow jam ‘Inevitable’, a collaboration with The Neptunes. It’s one of the album’s highlights. A mid tempo song that, with Pharrell’s trademark sound and Jake’s falsetto, resonates like vintage Jamiroquai. In a good way.
The single, ‘Only The Horses’, co-penned and produced by dance producer de jour Calvin Harris, is pretty standard chart fodder – it has all the trademarks of a Calvin Harris hit, the piano, the house beat, the synth breakdown – but in comparison to the last 2 tracks, and some of the others on here, it’s pretty uninspiring.
But in truth, the album only has one really duff song on it, but the other stand outs lie within the dance tracks. ‘Let’s Have A Kiki’,
A kiki is a party,
for calming all your nerves.
We’re spilling tea,
and dishing just deserts when they deserve –
is everything I want the Sisters to be. It’s a Party Monster electro house club voyage with spoken vocals that oozes cool from every pore. With all the collaborations, the track that stands out as my favourite (and possible my favourite thing they’ve ever done) was written and produced by the Sisters themselves. Elsewhere, single ‘Shady Love’, featuring the current princess of electro-house-rap Azealia Banks, is a dirty club track that sounds like Azealia’s banger ‘212’ smashed into ‘Comfortably Numb’. If I was being picky, I might point out that the melody sounds quite a bit like ‘212’, but I like it too much to care! ‘Self Control’ recalls 1990’s early rave; ‘Somewhere’ is pure, chilled-out, Stuart Price dance pop, and the bonus track ‘Fuck Yeah’ is a brilliant Brazilian-Nintendo electro mash. The ballads aren’t half bad either – ‘Year Of Living Dangerously’ is a minimal, electronic ambient track with a great ’80s power ballad chorus, and ‘The Secret Life Of Letters’ is haunting in its Tori Amos-like simplicity.
Through the course of the album we are treated to a mixture of well written pop songs in varying styles. It falls a little flat with ‘San Luis Obispo’ which, with its acoustic guitar and latin/country feel, doesn’t stand up to the standard of the other songs, but in light of how good the rest of the album is I don’t think it really matters.
To be honest, I could have a whole album of songs like ‘Let’s Have A Kiki’ and I wouldn’t complain. The freakshow catwalk strut of that song alone is exactly what I crave from a band like the Scissor Sisters, but very little on here is unwelcome. If you loved their debut but have felt disenchanted with them recently, or you like good pop music, this album is for you, whether you feel like dancing or not. If however you like your Scissor Sisters non-offensive and fluffy, stick Ta Dah on and give this one a miss!
I’m sure most of you will make the right decision.