Listening to Night Work, the third album from the New York disco-rock band Scissor Sisters, is a reminder of how hard it can be to make thoroughly shallow pop music. In the wake of their breakthrough 2004 self-titled debut, the Scissor Sisters stumbled badly on 2006's strained Ta-Dah, which raised the possibility that the quintet's retro-fabulousness was already starting to lose its charm. But after completely scrapping what was going to be Ta-Dah's follow-up, the Sisters are back finally with Night Work, an album whose relentlessly chirpy irreverence would be its most noticeable quality if it wasn't for its healthy penchant for sleek hooks.
Originality isn't of paramount importance here — the real question is how well they plunder their inspirations. And on Night Work, they thieve adroitly, tweaking George Michael's "I Want Your Sex" for "Whole New Way," paying homage to Devo on "Running Out," and mashing up every '80s new wave ballad for "Skin Tight." But Night Work's cheekiness shouldn't be confused with brainlessness. Peel away its glittery sheen, and it's an album of naked need and sexual desire that tries hard to keep you from seeing its insecurities. Frontman Jake Shears isn't a singer as much as he is a performer, and whether he's narrating the apocalyptic "Invisible Night" or ushering us away from our dead-end jobs on the ebullient title track, he's a playful id with so much charisma you'd follow him anywhere. So let's get the party started: After Ta-Dah, the Scissor Sisters are giddily reborn on an album that's as taut and arresting as the ass that adorns Night Work's cover.
Tim Grierson writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.