By Chris Moore:
RATING: 4 / 5 stars
In this age of increasing separation between genres, particularly alternative (i.e. music comprised of basic rock instruments) and experimental/indie (i.e. that relying on dance beats, synthesized instruments, and other technology), the Scissor Sisters are one of the few acts cutting through all those distinctions without compromising their sound.
On the one hand, Night Work is hard-core dance music, drawing largely from instruments that require programming. One look at their attire would be enough to mistakenly situate this band in the heart of the eighties. With names like Jake Shears, Ana Matronic, Babydaddy (who handles the aforementioned programming), and Del Marquis, it might be difficult to take the Scissor Sisters as anything more than a fun, even a novelty, act.
However, this would be a misguided reaction. It would be folly to minimize their craft, weaving in strong rock components — like Marquis’ guitars — and complex harmonies as they do. There are moments of pure rock bliss, electric solos being delivered over a bed of other accompaniments, drums being layered in at all the right moments, and additional sounds like strings — synthesized though they may be — accenting the arrangements in all the right places.
This is what is perhaps most impressive about Night Work: it is an exceedingly busy album, with little opportunity for the listener to become bored with the instrumentation or the vocal deliveries, and yet I would hesitate to label it as overproduced. If anything, the Scissor Sisters have embraced this set of instruments and aren’t afraid to fill their tracks to the brim with all manner of sounds.
This is certainly the band’s most overtly sexual album, a release characterized by provocative phrasings, erotic voice-overs, and carnal beats. It’s difficult to interpret such lines as “grabbing apples” or doing it “in front of my parents” otherwise, and, with titles like “Skintight” and “Sex and Violence,” it doesn’t seem as though we are being invited to read such lyricism at a deeper level.
There is something to be said for such openness. At first, I wasn’t sure how to take this album. I certainly enjoyed it from the first listen onward, but I wasn’t sure if these were provocative songs or songs that simply went for the “shock” factor. After multiple returns to this record, I find it difficult to view it as anything other than a brilliant collection of songs. The tracks are smartly arranged, and the shift from “Night Work” (track one) to “Night Life” (the penultimate track) can be read in a number of ways, not least of which as a study of the seamier side of human nature.
Lyrically sharp — “opiate utopia,” “I had a dream we were holding on / And tomorrow has become today,” “Sex and violence / Never let you see them / Hand in hand / And one is just the other / The softest touch is / Deeper than the ocean” — and thematically tight, Night Work is an impressive third effort, making good on all the promise of their debut and all the progression of Ta-Dah!
So, chalk this one up to the “don’t judge a book by its cover” cliche. If a man grabbing his tight-adorned backside was enough to dissuade you from giving this one a listen, take this as a warning not to miss out on one of the strongest albums of the year. It sounds modern and yet retro, intelligent and yet sensual, poppy yet with a strong basis in basic rock.
There aren’t many things like this, so run out and have a listen.