The flamboyant poppers rediscover their magic touch on album four.
Tom Hocknell 2012-05-21
Scissor Sisters’ audacious cover of Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb sounds as fresh today as in 2004 – but can the same be said for the band themselves? 2010’s Night Work album, despite the Frankie Goes to Hollywood-like majesty of Invisible Light, sounded panicked, testing the thin line between exuberance and contrivance. Its number two chart position was hardly a disaster – but the album sold less than previous sets, leaving this fourth album with plenty to prove.
The band describes Magic Hour as "future pop" – but collaborations with Diplo, Pharrell Williams and Calvin Harris looks, on paper, more like bandwagon-jumping than any forward-thinking. But it works.
Baby Come Home, a cousin to Take Your Mama Out, opens fearlessly with honky-tonk piano, Vocoder and wasted decadence, strutting about with impenetrable confidence. The annoying Keep Your Shoes On fails to build on this, but Inevitable quickly settles into a lovely Bee Gees-recalling groove, demonstrating that when they step off the dance floor Scissor Sisters are capable of genuine vulnerability.
By its makers’ admittance, Magic Hour is a smorgasbord of styles – it hops around like a rabbit browsing the Now! series. But what comes through, to the advantage of this set, is the sense of the band really enjoying itself. From the hard-hitting synths and rapping of Shady Love through to the all-conquering, Calvin Harris-assisted Only the Horses; from the Rufus Wainwright-ish anguish of Secret Life of Letters to the dancehall of the surprisingly mesmerising Let’s Have a Kiki, Sister Sisters have recovered their debut album’s playfulness.
Every mixed bag will have its misses, and sure enough San Luis Obispo is as forgettable as Best in Me is insipid. But Self Control pounds like a lost 90s house 12", while Somewhere demonstrates commendable restraint and is the equal of their very best work. It’s such a natural closer that the extra tracks add little, F*** Yeah possessing the charm of a neighbour’s house party the night before a job interview.
Doubts dashed, Scissor Sisters have rediscovered a magic touch lacking slightly on Night Work. Their progress is marked by a developed sense of reflection, which balances their familiar flamboyance – surely to resurface with their Fraggle Rock soundtrack – quite wonderfully.