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Scissor Sisters Biography
It was 2009, and Jake Shears was in Berlin. Dancing. "There were nights when I'd look out into the crowd and it would look timeless. I wouldn't know what decade we were in." In fact, it was three years after the release of Scissor Sisters' second album (like its predecessor, it had sold over a million copies in the UK alone), and one year ahead of the band's third. As he looked out over the mass of bodies, Jake found the spark for what would become the fire at the heart of 'Night Work', a dynamic new album with some killer dance moves and a superhuman ability to stay out later than it should do. Without skimping on tunes, 'Night Work' is very much a nocturnal album whose soul could, indeed, have come from any time. "It's a dream record," says Jake. "It's everything we haven't been able to pull off before." Comeback moments don't come much more dreamlike than euphoric lead single 'Fire With Fire', an epic tale of battles lost and won, victory snatched from the jaws of defeat. "It's about the horrors that creep into your mind when time's going along and things seem farther away, and the minutes tick by and things gets worse and worse," Jake explains. "It's a rebellion against that self destructive train of thought. I know if a song's really good when I tear up slightly when I hear it, and this one's made me cry a couple of times. Embarrassingly. It's triumphant, it's a song for everyone, it's not subtle in any way and I love it." As a blissful anthem about facing challenges, standing your ground, holding your nerve and somehow winning in the end, 'Fire With Fire' is a celebration of the human spirit but it's just as easily a celebration of the fact that Jake, Ana Matronic, Babydaddy and Del Marquis have, somehow, made it to a third album. While this album's predecessor, with its almost-convincingly upbeat title 'Ta-Dah', masked a sometimes quite downbeat mood, 'Night Work' always feels like dancing, but absent this time round is what Babydaddy describes as the "Muppety fuzziness". There are handclaps for example, but, crucially, there are no jazz hands. The maudlin feel on the last album is, Jake says, "replaced now by a much more sinister one - which I LOVE. It's sinister in a very sexual, pleasure-filled way. A lot of the album is about going past your limits and going too far". The album therefore begins with the ultimate going out song 'Night Work' then ends eleven tracks later not with a whimpering ballad but a dance floor-shaped big bang in the form of hands-in-the-lasers blowout 'Invisible Light'. While most albums tend to wind down in their final moments, this is the night out that refuses to end, but it's fair to say it took its time getting started. The 'Night Work' story began after the band's headline shows at London's O2 in 2007, when the band went straight back in the studio for five-day weeks. There could actually have been an album two years ago, Babydaddy recalls. "There was a lot of material, but it didn't make sense. I only wanted Scissor Sisters to come back if there was a reason for us to come back, and if there had been enough of a change to fill up the airwaves." "It didn't mean anything," Jake explains, "and we didn't know what we wanted to say." So the band decided to try some new things. Babydaddy learned to paint, Ana threw herself into creative writing and Del released some music by himself. Jake wrote a musical, but Jake also went to Berlin. He went dancing, surrendered himself to the city, and became dislodged in time on the middle of that dance floor, and while he was wondering what year it was, he asked himself the question: if it were, for example, 1984, what would happen next? "And it made me start thinking about New York and the club scene in New York from the 70s to the 80s. So much was progressive and being pushed and something was on fire. And then everybody died. The party stopped in a way that couldn't have been more dramatic. A whole generation was wiped out. And one of the questions I was posing was: where was that music headed? Where was Sylvester, Frankie, all that heading? What if music hadn't stopped dead in its tracks? What if you could pick up where that left off? I wanted to know how music would eventually have sounded." And in that split second, 'Night Work' was born. "When Jake found his moment I realized it was something we could move forward with," Babydaddy recalls, and with what he describes as the "long overdue" arrival of producer Stuart Price in June 2009, the album exploded. The band met up with Stuart in Berlin and, as a group, they listened to the music that was already recorded. Afterwards Stuart pitched his philosophy: "Records sound like the time you had making them. This process must be fun". Price had immediately identified the problem. As a long-time acquaintance, friend of the band and occasional collaborator since the Scissors supported his band on tour in 2004, he was the answer that had really been there all along. "It was like getting back on a tandem bike you knew exactly how to ride, with someone you trusted not to brake leaving you to fly over the handlebars," Ana recalls. However, concerns that he'd offer an easy ride were soon squashed flat; he worked the band harder than they could remember, instantly threw out tracks that weren't working, and reworking the ones that were. "'Fire With Fire' was the turning point," Babydaddy recalls. "Jake felt that he could take control and say what he wanted to say." Ana adds that her own moment of clarity came "when we realized that we didn't need to make the same album again. We didn't need to do a Side A and a Side B with a ballad at the end of each side. In fact, we didn't need to do ballads at all..." So, there are no ballads: 'Night Work' is a dance record. It's not all electronic, and the sound of a band spinning out together in a rehearsal room is alive and well in tracks like 'Any Which Way'. But this is fundamentally a club album and one that pulls off the feat of being both more advanced than its predecessors and far younger in spirit and attitude. So there's 'Running Out' - an ode to humanity's built-in self-destruct function (according to Ana), or to "skint kids in a club with no money left, pawing around for drugs on the floor" (according to Jake). 'Sex and Violence' is inspired by American Psycho with Jake describing it as "a kind of an electro murder ballad". 'Something Like This' revels in its undulating robotic clank. "'Night Work' is really us boiled down to who we are. It feels quintessentially us." There are key influences in there - you'll hear them range from Giorgio Moroder to The Cult and Frankie Goes to Hollywood to ZZ Top - but three albums in, Scissor Sisters have nailed their sound and rekindled the magic that took them from dirty New York gay bars to the Royal Albert Hall. Significantly perhaps, this time around it's a little less Albert Hall, and a little more Prince Albert. It's a spirit captured so brilliantly in that album closer 'Invisible Light', a track that's essentially Pink Floyd in the Pleasuredome, arriving in a hail of crowd noise and rave horns, taking in a Sir Ian McKellen monologue somewhere along the way, and then soaring to the sky after a breakdown that took the band two months to get right and is guaranteed to flick a little switch in the heads of several generations of club kids. "It encapsulates that moment when you're out, and you're really high, and it feels like there's no way you could ever come down," says Jake. What does it feel like to be a Scissor Sister in 2010? Babydaddy has the answer. "It feels," he says, "like we're ready."