Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Scissor Sisters - Magic Hour (UK version) --Review--

Less than two years after their third album Night Work Scissor Sisters are back with Magic Hour...and it's all a bit...underwhelming.

I don't think Scissor Sisters are capable of making a bad album. Magic Hour is not bad, though after a few listens I find it my least favourite album of theirs so far. To a certain extent it suffers from similar issues of production kind as the new Rufus Wainwright album does. But the Sisters have it harder than Rufus: though coming from the seedy underground their music has always been very chart-friendly, and, in one form or another, pure pop. Night Work might have been a creative win but it didn't quite live up to the commercial success of its predecessors. Magic Hour partly seems to attempt to get the band back at the top of the charts, bringing on board hip producers like Calvin Harris, Pharrell Williams or Diplo, and partly it's very subdued and reflective. Unfortunately, the production is also very subdued and as a result many of the songs are sold short.

The album's stand-outs are the infectious piano-lead album opener Baby Come Home, camp Let's Have A Kiki and the gorgeous "ballad with a beat" Somewhere. What do these songs have in common? With a slightly different production they would fit perfectly on the Scissor Sisters' previous albums.

Somewhere actually deserves its own paragraph, as it is my favourite song on the album. It Can't Come Quickly Enough meets Skin Tight: epic melancholia with a dance beat. It would still have been a stand-out had it appeared on any of Scissor Sisters's previous albums.

Compared to these songs...the rest of the album is a bit bland and makes you feel a bit disconcerted. Inevitable and Self Control are almost good enough to have been included on Night Work and sound a little bit like Pet Shop Boys of the Nightlife era (never a bad thing).

But that's pretty much where the enjoyment ends for me. Year of Living Dangerously and The Secret Life of Letters start with a potential to be great ballads but they never quite live up to the expectations. Keep Your Shoes On, Best In Me and the Latin-flavoured San Luis Obispo are OK tracks but not exactly very memorable or...great. They simply don't leave a deep impression. And the less said about the UK bonus song Fuck Yeah, the better. Dunno...perhaps works in a club environment?

The "proper" first single, Only the Horses, has become strangely controversial among the band's fan base. Why? It's a great pop song, it has a rousing, anthemic melody...but it's also a bit generic and, simply, it could be anybody's song. If the band's signature instrument, a piano, that is, weren't featured it could easily be a Rihanna song. I personally like this song a lot but I also understand why many aren't that enamoured with it.

Magic Hour is not a bad album but it is an album of many missed opportunities and generic beats. Who knows, maybe it's a grower but Scissor Sisters's standard has been set so ridiculously high since they entered the music scene, the new album has sadly ended up being a bit of a disappointment.

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