Four years after their mediocre sophomore effort, Scissor Sisters is back. Between albums they lost a band member and scrapped an album that was 18-months in the making. Upset, Jake Shears flew to Berlin to escape for a while. He found more than solace there and became inspired by the nightlife in the busy city which in turn became the launching pad of what is arguably the best of their three albums.
What’s inside is perfectly described by the Robert Mapplethorpe cover: sexy, dirty, playful. It’s an album showcasing a band rediscovering the fun of their hungry years. Night Work could easily be considered a concept album, but feels more like a raunchy history of pop music lesson. The band, with the help of producer Stuart Price (Madonna, Kylie Minogue), have encapsulated 1977 – 1982 in nearly perfect chronological order as homage to the occupation of hitting the clubs. In other words, the night work.
The opening track is an overture to a suite of music easily made into an underground Broadway show. “Night Work” tells us why we’re here while the next track — “Whole New Way” — chronicles Jake’s trip to Berlin. When he sings, “I found a whole new way to love you…it’s going to blow your mind but, if not, this time we’re through,” he’s not singing of a human relationship, but the one with his music-making abilities.
“Side 1” continues to take us through the 70’s with songs that would make Disco Tex, Foxy and early B-52’s proud. It also features background vocal turns by 80’s icon Helen Terry on “Whole New Way,” Kylie Minogue on the excellent “Any Which Way,” and Santigold on “Running Out.” The second half is full of Kraftwerk, DEVO and Gary Numan in its journey through the early part of the 80’s.
And when we arrive at the last track, “Invisible Light,” Del Marquis begins his Pink Floyd guitar and slowly the track builds into an epic disco song Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder were famous for bringing into existence. It’s the swirling decadence of an opium den — hyper, calming and dangerous all at the same time. Even Sir Ian McKellen shows up for some wickedness.
The only low spots are the bland, made-for-the-masses arrangements of “Fire With Fire” and “Skin Tight.” These two songs seem a bit out of place within the confides of an album filled with music that show the band having fun with their sound. Still they’re the kind of songs you’d wish were on radio more often.
Night Work is a cocaine-induced night at Studio 54 in its prime. It’s writhing pleasure mixed with sweat from physical exertion — dance related or not. If only all history lessons were this fun.
You Have To Hear: Ana Matronic’s hilarious cooing bridge on “Any Which Way.”
“Fire With Fire”