Review : Scissor Sisters - Magic Hour
GuardianEight years after Scissor Sisters turned Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb into an unlikely disco smash, guest producers Pharrell Williams and Calvin Harris, and an Azealia Banks rap on Shady Love, give their fourth album an electro-pop sheen aimed at today's top 40. The euphoric dance single Only the Horses is already a hit, although such Identikit chart grooves have come at the expense of the Sisters' individuality. Less of themselves is lost on the quirky pop fluff of Keep Your Shoes On and Ana Matronic's Latin percussion-banging Let's Have a Kiki, but the New Yorkers sound most comfortable on piano-pumping pop songs. The Bee Geesy Inevitable and the deceptively bouncy San Luis Obispo chart hedonism and its lonely flipside, with tales of "fancy restaurant, cocaine nights" and post-disco loneliness. Year of Living Dangerously combines Jake Shears' musings on promiscuity and monogamy with sharp songwriting. A remodel was probably overdue, but the best moment here is another signature stomper: Baby Come Home, a late-night insecurity confessional boasting their catchiest tune since I Don't Feel Like Dancing....full text
NmeScissor Sisters’ last album, 2010’s ‘Night Work’, was a triumph of sorts. It was all sleaze-pop references and a general sense of disorder that flew in the face of their previous incarnation as the Nation’s Favourite Wacky Uncles (and Aunt). And although they’ve backtracked ever so slightly on ‘Magic Hour’ (it’s co-produced by Calvin Harris), the best bits retain the shadow of Lower East Side grot that made ‘Night Work’ so good. Both the Azealia Banks featuring ‘Shady Love’ and ‘Let’s Have A Kiki’ (no, us neither) are ridiculously unhinged electroclash throwbacks, while ‘Self Control’ mines the same Chicago house references that Azari & III have drawn from with such success. These high points are starkly contrasted with single ‘Only The Horses’, a hollow bauble of Harris-lite, and the rather ‘meh’ ballads like ‘Best In Me’ and ‘Year Of Living Dangerously’. A mixed bag, sure, but there’s signs that they are still fighting the good fight for weirdos everywhere.
PiitchforkWhen the word got out that the Scissor Sisters' fourth album would feature collaborations with producers like Calvin Harris, Diplo, the Neptunes and Boys Noize, it seemed safe to assume that we were in for the party-happy band's most danceable record yet. But no. Magic Hour is, in fact, the group's most low-key and ballad-centric album to date, with only a few cuts that approach the hyperactive, ultra-camp thrills of songs like "Filthy/Gorgeous", "Paul McCartney", and "Invisible Light".
It's a little unclear why the group drafted so many ringers to help write this record. Though the Calvin Harris-produced dance ballad "Only the Horses" retains some of the producer's delightfully cheesy house aesthetics, the other guest producers have dialed back their quirks considerably. This is disappointing. While the band's previous songwriting collaborations with Elton John and David Bowie sideman Carlos Alomar yielded tunes that fused those artists' immediately recognizable styles with the Sisters' distinct brand of 1970s pop pastiche, their collaborators end up getting swallowed by the band's well-defined style. It's hard to tell what Diplo brought to the moody, subdued "Year of Living Dangerously", and there is only a trace of the Neptune's signature sound in "Inevitable", a track that sounds like it ought to be playing faintly in the background of an overly fancy cocktail lounge.
While it is certainly admirable that the Scissor Sisters' creative vision is strong enough that they sound very much like themselves no matter who they work with, they really could have used a strong push from their collaborators this time around. Primary songwriters Jake Shears and Babydaddy are still very good with melody, but even the best material on Magic Hour-- the jaunty opener "Baby Come Home", the delightful club track "Keep Your Shoes On"-- lack the spark and exuberance of their earlier work.
The abundance of ballads doesn't help. Though Shears is quite good at singing them, they have never been the band's strong suit, and they seem to be aware of this, as those numbers never seem to stick around for long in their live show. The group always seem self conscious on their ballads, with Shears singing as though on his best behavior, and the band leaning on too-obvious reference points. The slow songs here aren't all a bust-- "Year of Living Dangerously" builds to a satisfyingly melodramatic peak and "Inevitable" has an appealing glamor. But the duds are very difficult to sit through, particularly the bland "Secret Life of Letters" and the trite, excessively sentimental "Best in Me"....full text
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