A fist above the rest.
(UMA) ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I’m not sure if there actually will be an album this year that’s as truly glorious as this, the third (but second at heart) full-length offering from the Scissor Sisters, but good luck to anyone who wants to take a stab at it.
In a year that will see no new releases from Madonna, Lady GaGa or Girls Aloud, the floor for album of the year is open to almost anybody. Or at least, it was. We’re in the midst of a golden pop age and, particularly for me, to not have either of those three actively releasing new material in the year, AND for the year to be as blisteringly amazing as it already has been – Pop Music has a lot of good going for it at the moment.
But nothing more-so delicious and grand than “Night Work”, which manages the near impossible of being positively flawless from beginning to end. Stuart Price, who worked on the new Kylie album, plays producer on every track here and on a bulk of co-writes too. I think Jake and Co gave Price a lot more freedom than most other artists have in the past and it really shows on the final product. This not only takes the Scissters into a whole new level of brilliance but also propels Stuart Price onto an even higher pedestal than I’d placed him on years earlier. Surely another near impossible feat.
Although mind-blowingly great, Kylie’s “Aphrodite” may not be as brilliant as “Confessions” was, but “Night Work”… fuck, it actually is better than Confessions, isn’t it? Even if just a little bit, right? I mean, don’t tell Madonna, but admit it, Confessions had a bit of filler. Night Work’s only association with that particular ‘f’ word involves the kind you inject into your cheeks for beauty and nightclubbing, not a song you could either take-or-leave. There’s none of that here.
The title track “Night Work” opens like a twisted ray of sunshine and smells of walkmans, rollerblades and all things Xanadu, with lyrics I was loving stupid over the last couple of weeks driving to a 9 to 5 temping job I’ve been doing. “Punch that clock and break all the numbers! Weekday nine-to-five shift is over!” Amen. It’s the perfect way to start one of the finest party records of our time.
Interestingly, there are some surprise references to both George Michael and Robbie Williams in the first quarter of the disc. “Whole New Way” borrows licks and thumping funk-beats from Michael’s “I Want Your Sex” (both Parts 1 AND 2), whilst the thundering ballad “Fire With Fire” sees Shears connect with his inner Robbie, at least vocally. XO nailed it in his review when talking about this track, in the sense that it’s one fans will eventually come around to. It’s the Scissters doing their own “Viva La Vida” of sorts; it’s so mighty and majestic and definitely makes even more sense in context of the record.
The instant disco-funk of “Any Which Way” reaches a true pop pinnacle when Ana Matronic launches into the single greatest talky-bit in music for 2010. If you haven’t heard it yet, by the time you’re done you too will be asking the Scissters to take you in front of your parents. Any which way you can!
“Harder You Get” takes things to a glam-rock-adoring sweaty sex club, before we reach the glorious insanity of “Running Out”, which is one of many potential singles here. Ana glows through Running Out, her part really takes the song to new heights and makes me hanker for some kind of solo effort from her down the track. She’s definitely got what it takes and has more than ever made up for her anti-Rachel Stevens movement a few years ago.
Did you spot the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Kylie sample in obvious single “Something Like This”? I definitely think it’s a testament to how much of a brilliant song “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” is; it already deserves to be immortalised and sampled. In doing so, the Scissters have created what is probably the most infectious song in their catalogue. Release this immediately, this must be single number 2!
Matronic shines again on sexy solo “Skin This Cat”, whilst tender disco-ballad “Skin Tight” shimmies and shines like a bright burning star in the sky, reminiscent of the gloriously fucked feeling you have walking home, trashed beyond belief after being out, and maybe being with the one person you want to be with most in the world. It’s incredible stuff.
And then there’s “Sex & Violence.”
This is easily the best song on here. It’s the Scissters scissoring the Pet Shop Boys. It also houses my favourite lyric of the year, “You were walking home that night, too kind to be elusive. Where you live? What you give? Who you with? And how you getting home? Does anybody know right now, exactly where you are? A step inside’s a step too far.” Amazing, one of the most psychologically damaging and yet simultaneously beautiful series of lyrics I’ve heard in years.
The Chic-beats of “Night Life” work as a fitting sequel to the records self-titled opener, before leading into the truly special “Invisible Light,” the biggest shimmer of dance music on here. You want to know the correct use of the now very-overused word “Epic”? Listen to this. If your mind is not blown by Ian McKellen’s surprise verse, it certainly will be by the time the Lion King party drums of the songs grand finale ring through for the greatest closing minutes in a song this year and, hey, fuck it – why not – maybe ever.
My best friend Ben said he feels like a cigarette after every song on this album, that sensation of sexual satisfaction just as the next song ends and another one starts, having that burning desire to just spark up a fucking cigarette coz it’s just. that. good. I think it’s the perfect analogy for an album like “Night Work”, and one that would make Jake and the gang incredibly proud.
It’s also the first album I have not changed the track listing of on my iPod. From start to finish, as it is, in all its sonic perfection. I can’t even remember the last album track listing I hadn’t altered.
I’m fairly confident in the view that this isn’t just a great album. It’s one of the most exciting pop records I’ve heard. Ana gets taken in front of her parents, Jake’s playing fisticuffs and it’s just a whole lot of really passionate fun, isn’t it? 2009 was the year of sadness and sorrow, I’m bored of all that and want to have fun.
And nothing does fun quite as effortlessly as “Night Work.”
Album of the year, hands down.