x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Sharp sounds on Scissor Sisters' Magic Hour

Scissor Sisters return with an album full of catchy dance numbers.

Scissor Sisters perform at the Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi.
Scissor Sisters perform at the Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi.

Scissor Sisters
Magic Hour
(Polydor)
***

You only have to listen to the likes of Rihanna, Katy Perry or Lady Gaga to realise how inseparable the worlds of pop and dance music have become. Each artist seems to have made the unlikely discovery that euphoric keyboards and pounding club beats offer the most reliable formula for mainstream success in 2012. But it wasn't always this way. When Scissor Sisters first shimmied on to the stage eight years ago – with disco falsettos and Lycra jumpsuits – dance music had been retreating for years, with R&B the dominant force elsewhere in pop.

Today's megastars may not share Scissor Sisters' obsession with 1970s artists such as Elton John and the Bee Gees, but the New York troupe's overblown kitsch, musical literacy and downright dedication to dancin' has clearly rubbed off. As David Guetta-style club music has risen to the forefront of pop, however, Scissor Sisters' influence has begun to fade. Sure, 2010's electro-heavy Night Work had its moments, but its sales couldn't match those of their riotous debut, or its follow-up Ta-Dah.

Magic Hour attempts to correct this, with a clutch of tunes designed to propel feet towards dance floors and the group back to the top of the charts. Baby Come Home bounces into life with a piano refrain reminiscent of the early hit Take Your Mama Out. With Jake Shears's reliably buoyant vocal at its fore, it almost sounds as if the band are back to their filthy, gorgeous best. The lead single Only the Horses is more troublesome. Recorded with the Rihanna producer Calvin Harris, the unapologetic club number doesn't just feel like an exercise in bandwagon jumping, but also seems to rob the group of their wit and personality.

Things get more interesting on Shady Love, featuring the rapper-of-the-moment Azealia Banks. Amusingly, on the throbbing electro number it's Shears who raps, alongside a soul vocal from his guest. In keeping with their previous albums, Magic Hour is not without jarring moments, including the shrill disco homage Inevitable and Ana Matronic's painfully tongue-in-cheek Caribbean number Let's Have a Kiki.

Of all the big-name producers that have been roped-in – including Pharrell Williams and Alexander Ridha (Boys Noize) – it's Diplo who best succeeds at capturing the Scissor Sisters' individuality, on the beautiful and reflective Year of Living Dangerously. While the group have lost none of their songwriting prowess, their keenness to work with dance music's hottest names has resulted in an album that feels highly accomplished, but uneven. If Magic Hour's objective was to place Scissor Sisters at the centre of dance-pop with a bunch of irresistibly kinetic tunes, then it's a success, but there's something strange about the former trailblazers being forced to play catch-up.

 

artslife@thenational.ae