New York disco-popsters Scissor Sisters supply the sass and the soul
This spring, two of the disco era’s preeminent figures – Donna Summer and the Bee Gees’ Robin Gibb – passed away within days of each other, prompting many to wax nostalgic about a current that would define so many dance permutations to follow.
Many wondered what was the twenty-first century legacy of four-on-the-floor thumps, uplifting diva melodies and maverick, freedom-fighting lyrics? Those whose answer begins with an “M” and rhymes with “Iguana” should think harder, as the Material Girl’s latest release is yet another pathetic, strained attempt at relevance that tries to hit so many marks and amounts to no more than a convoluted, hot mess.
Scissor Sisters, the more appropriate flag-bearers for sassy disco freedoms in 2012, remind us that soaring synths and syncopated basslines are alive and well (and prone to occasionally shrewd reinvention) on their fourth full-length, Magic Hour, released in May. The high-energy New York quartet has clocked in over a decade’s worth of cheeky, beat-buttressed melodies whose common denominator is smart hooks. The graduates in the art of pop pastiche provide more of their style-hopping merchandise on Magic Hour, which is chockfull of surprising – and mostly successful – high-profile guest appearances (Diplo, Azealia Banks, Pharrell Williams, Boys Noize, Calvin Harris). There’s a campy song about partying (“Let’s Have a Kiki”), a fierce electro-rap knock-out with Azealia commanding the chorus (“Shady Love”) and even a beautiful, lovelorn ballad in which frontman Jake Shears busts out a few Bee Gees-reminiscent falsettos (“Inevitable”).
Just like Madonna, the ebullient Sisters effortlessly mobilize their LGBT fan base with empowering, often libidinous anthems. But unlike the self-important image queen and her calculated appeals for press, Shears & Co. actually enjoy taking the piss out of themselves: for proof, head over to their website to watch a hilarious spoof infomercial for their new album, hosted by Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme.
And though both albums’ at times naïve “the-dancefloor-will-cure-all-ills” philosophy will elicit some eyerolls, MDNA and its purported edginess ring very hollow. The Sisters, like true divas, keep it real by bringing bona fide soul to the table.