BY Jeremy Kinser
July 12 2010 5:00 AM ET
“I am feeling sexier than ever,” Jake Shears says confidently, calling from a cab in London en route to celebrate close friend Kylie Minogue’s birthday. It’s an attitude that not only reflects the 31-year-old singer’s newly chiseled physique but also infects Night Work, the audacious third album from his band, Scissor Sisters.
It doesn’t take much imagination to see Shears in a sexual light. Frequently shirtless and always refreshingly candid, he makes no secret of his past stint as a go-go boy in seedy New York bars prior to forming Scissor Sisters. Nor has he been shy about postsuccess dropping of trou, evidenced in tantalizing photo shoots for numerous magazines, not to mention his penchant for wearing next to nothing while prancing like a panther when taking center stage in concert. Yet Night Work is an erotic revelation. It’s a record that wears its pro-sex message on its album sleeve—a close-up of dancer Peter Reed’s clenched ass taken by another provocateur, the late Robert Mapplethorpe. Shears proudly takes credit for the cover, fighting against the band’s and label’s opposition to the vintage photograph. “I’m glad I stuck to my guns,” he says. “It makes a statement that’s unique.”
Songs such as “Any Which Way,” “Harder You Get,” and “Skin Tight” only reinforce the carnal theme. Clearly influenced by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Giorgio Moroder, and Sylvester, Night Work is a paean to a bygone era—recalling the hedonistic haze of the late 1970s and early ’80s as disco morphed into house music and the AIDS crisis took its toll on the nightclub subculture—and the gay musicians associated with the period.
“I want this record to hold a torch up,” Shears says. “It’s an homage to all those men we lost to AIDS…and all that creativity that was suddenly gone.” The dozen new songs from Sisters with Shears’s soaring falsetto serve as a siren’s call to shed all inhibitions on the dance floor. While the lead single, “Fire With Fire,” is an optimistic anthem that celebrates survival, the album’s closing track, “Invisible Light,” with Sir Ian McKellen’s spoken word invitation to the bacchanal, is a serotonin rush of a song. It may be the band’s masterpiece. “It’s a shout-out to all the people who drop E and stay out all night,” Shears says. “The breakdown in the song is made for flashbacks.” Besides the obvious appeal to club kids of all ages, Night Work, with its pervasive call to join the party, could be the band’s most accessible album yet. And that didn’t happen coincidentally.