Album: Scissor Sisters – “Magic Hour” (2012)

So, the Scissor Sisters. Oddly enough, the only album I’d really given a good listen to before now was 2010’s Night Work, not their multi-platinum first two albums. I think the singles from those were so inescapable that I didn’t feel I really needed to. It was all a bit shrill and overly camp, with some flashes of brilliance.

“Night Work” had Stuart Price on production duties, so this was enough of a draw. It was hit and miss, but the hits were really good. No longer having the pressure to be a radio-friendly A-List group after the relative commerical disappointment of “Night Work”, it feels like “Magic Hour” is a bit more like the sort of thing I expect from them: still pretty camp but with more space to be less family-friendly, and a dancier edge to the music.

Of course I could be talking nonsense, maybe their albums were always like that, but I’m none the wiser.

07 Baby come home – They’ve at least kept that 70s vibe to their music, with more than a dash of Elton in this one. It hasn’t got a big mission-statement feel to it, nor is it a front-loaded smash hit that opens up the album. It’s almost just like business as usual. It sounds good, that chorus is bouncy and sing-a-long, even if there’s nothing massively catchy going on.

07 Keep your shoes on – A quirky dance beat opens this one, a nice plucky little pop track. The familiar Scissor Sisters mix of attitude and falsetto notes. I like it really, I just find it hard to say much about it. I’m not great at reviews, I admit. It’s got a bit of a strange tempo but it gets you moving, which I think is the point of most of this album.

08 Inevitable – Laid back lounge music now, sounds pretty classy. Is this “Nu-Disco”? I can never remember. Maybe Nu-Disco is old these days. Without sounding cheesy it has a really nice 70s feel to it. It’s sophisticated, and Jake’s high-pitched vocals don’t grate as they sometimes do. They suit certain songs, but he only has one volume level sometimes. The chorus is smooth and catchy, quite nice really. Surprised to hear Pharrell Williams had a co-write credit on this!

09 Only the horses – This is the lead single that got me interested in this album. Was a bit of a slow-burner but it’s proven itself to be a gorgeous little dance-pop number. Produced by Calvin Harris, it’s got a really modern feel to it. That bit after the first chorus where the beat really kicks in and the synthy are taken up a notch is really gorgeous.

07 Year of living dangerously – More weird swirly synth effects, this track has a bit of a downbeat feel to it. Diplo co-wrote too, but didn’t produce, I didn’t realise he did that! Takes a while to get off the ground, and even then the chorus doesn’t really get off the ground for me.

09 Let’s have a kiki – Really like this one, Ana Matronic has a fabulous little answerphone message over the 90s dance beat. This feels like a much more natural fit with my image of the Scissor Sisters, it’s got a great vibe to it. That “Lock the doooors” thing is a bit annoying but it’s pretty infectious. Certainly too cool for me.

09 Shady Love – A bit of an eyebrow-raiser for a lead single, which I guess was just sidelined when the Calvin Harris track came along. Azealia Banks also contributes to another harder dance track – at least until there’s that big harmonious chorus. This really does blossom into a pretty great track after all that. Azealia sounds a bit like a Sugababe on the chorus. I really like the semi-rapping verses too, there’s just a lot going on here and I like most of it.

07 San Luis Obispo – Totally tropical, here’s a sort of acoustic guitar-led upbeat pop song, like the Scissor Sisters most of us remember from the mid 00s. It’s a bit cheesy, sounds like something off Kylie’s Light Years. I Googled this place, it’s in California, looks nice. Track sounds a bit like Copacabana though, and somehow not as good!

06 Self Control – That dance beat is right out of 1994 isn’t it? You better show me love! I like that sound to it, but the song is a bit of a non-event. The chorus isn’t up to much, maybe propping itself up by being about sex. That might have worked in 1994!

06 Best in me – The lyrics grab your attention but are quite cringey, and don’t really get things off to a good start. When the bridge/chorus hits, it’s like something from an Ace of Base album. Is that what they were going for? Nothing wrong with Ace of Base of course, but this doesn’t stand up to that benchmark. The chorus is weirdly memorable but I don’t like it a lot.

05 The secret life of letters – Stuart Price returns for a production co-credit but I’m not sure what he did… it’s a piano-led slowie. The verses aren’t too bad, Jack has a weird offhand tone to his voice, it’s all a bit melodramatic, but it’s at least better than the dead-on-arrival chorus. Just don’t get this one at all.

07 Somewhere – Really like the production on this, finally feeling a bit more modern with a rich electro feel to it. The verses don’t have a lot to them, but the chorus is memorable and the harmonies are pretty cool. It’s not the most exciting track they’ve done, but the production is really nice.

09 Fuck Yeah – After another Ana Matronic voice message, it’s time for one last Kiki. A surprisingly heavy thumping beat kicks it off, with a delicious little electro bassline going through there. The verses are a bit of a rush, really love those. The bridge ruins the momentum a little bit, or is that the chorus? The structure is all over the place! Ana finally gets something to do other than voicemail messages, is that one of the other guys getting a verse too!? Really full-on and brilliant, it’s a great closing track.

OK so things are a bit patchy, but I think this album works well as an entire piece. Taking each individual song doesn’t really help, but as a full listen I would call this album a success. OK it sags a bit towards the end, but it’s certainly been fun listening to it.

Might not be converted enough to listen to their first two albums with any urgency, but I’m certainly interested to hear their future work.

Keepers for the iPod: Only the horses, Let’s have a kiki, Shady Love, Fuck yeah

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