The Designer’s Drugs: Scissor Sisters – Night Work

Night Work

Medium: Album

Stimulus: Scissor Sisters – Night Work

Anno: 2010

The impression I’ve taken from the Scissor Sisters’ new album is that the band is cashing in some of its Bee Gees disco sleaze for the more neon-colored perversions of the 80s. The band’s old wails show up in the lounging “Whole New Way” and the absurdly seedy “Any Which Way,” but most of Night Work is newer old school.

The title track opens the disc with “Funky Town” via “Physical,” “Running Out” pops up in the middle of the album waving a hint of Oingo Boingo, and “Invisible Light” caps everything off by mixing Scissor Sisters disco with Frankie Goes to Hollywood meets Animotion’s “Obsession.” Continuing the retro scheme, “Nightlife” is a quick and satisfying blast of New Wave, while Jake Shears breaks out a neat little Iggy Pop vamp in “Harder You Get” and Ana Matronic takes on her sole lead vocal alongside creeping beatboxing synths in “Skin this Cat.” An unexpected winner is the slow build of “Fire with Fire,” which begins as a lameass piano/guitar ballad that burst halfway through into dance and violins, sounding as though it might have belonged in an inspirational coming-of-age film.

Perhaps because the Sisters’ choices of style and influence are so scattered on this album, Night Work’s imitations rarely feel like cheap or stale retrospectives. No matter how derivative the songs may be, the Scissor Sisters know how to make them work.

The Designer’s Drugs: BT – These Hopeful Machines

These Hopeful Machines

Medium: Album

Stimulus: BT – These Hopeful Machines

Anno: 2010

I’ve always been divided when it comes to BT. Everything I’ve heard from the artist features highly produced, top-line electronic music which isn’t afraid of song structure while avoiding formula and repetition. The problem I have with BT is that when his songs feature vocalists, these people always blurt out contrived romantic sentiments, seemingly written by the world’s biggest pussy. Without fail, that is what happens on the two discs which comprise These Hopeful Machines. The music is panoramic and ridiculously danceable. The lyrics suck.

Thus, it’s easy to gravitate toward instrumental tracks like “Rose of Jericho” and “Le Nocturne de Lumiere” which rush and sweep the listener along with orchestral rhythms. Yet if one can get past the awful lyricism on the vocal tracks, there’s a lot to enjoy here as well. The chorus of “The Emergency” may include nonsense drivel such as “You’re I love you,” but the song’s cutting beats and pulses produce one of the album’s best tracks. Similarly, “Suddenly” is a roaring pop single scuffed by clichés exalting emotion and fate. What remains is a vast array of styles ranging from explosive to contemplative, every track a different exercise in craftsmanship.

Maybe BT just needs to hire a new lyricist.

Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: Liquid Sky

Anne Carlisle, and Anne Carlisle

Movie: Liquid Sky (1982)

Directed by: Slava Tsukerman

Starring: Anne Carlisle, Otto von Wernherr

Written by: Slava Tsukerman, Anne Carlisle, Nina V. Kerova

I may have found my crapseeking limit. I’m not sure what Liquid Sky meant to accomplish with its sordid tale of drugged-out hipsters and opiate aliens, but it’s certainly one of the dumbest, most crackheaded films I’ve ever seen.

The story focuses on Margaret (Carlisle), a Bowie-wannabe model who ingests drugs, lurches around, and gets raped with equal frequency. Her immediate circle consists of a mongoloid-looking drug dealing girlfriend, an old hippie lover, and a slick, sneering, pretty boy enemy named Jimmy. (He’s also played, wonderfully badly, by Carlisle, who in this guise sounds like a 15 year old boy trying to buy beer.) Beyond the hippie, none of these people are what you’d describe as rational. Indeed, almost nobody in this film is. All the characters either jitter around like epileptics or strike morose poses and come off as pretentious assholes. There’s no in-between.

After a U.F.O. the size of a dinner plate lands on the roof of Margaret’s apartment, the alien within watches her make a fool of herself. That evening, the Mongoloid (who is the worst element of the film) gives a horrible musical performance where she raps about her “rhythm box.” Then the cool kids put on a vapid fashion show, and Margaret gets raped by an Andrew McCarthy doppelganger. Following the degradation, the alien makes poor Margaret its champion and sets her loose to kill villains through orgasm, which somehow turns their brains into crystals. Whatever.

The production in this movie is ridiculous. Awkward editing and jarring jumps to solarized negative weaken the film on the visual end, but what’s worse is that Liquid Sky may boast the worst score of any film, ever. It’s as though the director injected a monkey with heroin and forced it to play a synthesizer.

Still, I will give the film a few positive points. Occasionally, Margaret becomes eerily interesting, and the knife fight she gets into with the Mongoloid (over the hippie’s dead, naked body) is pretty swell. And I’m always a fan of dumb Deus ex Machina, which this film delivers in U.F.O. form. Yet the very best thing about this film is the giant German astrophysicist and his sweet wavy 70s hair, high-ridin’ pants, and red leather jacket. Coming to America to stop the alien, he fights off Jimmy’s horned-up mom in his quest for intergalactic justice. And it’s damn hard to fight off a line like “you have a laser gun in your pants?” What a champ!

Yet our Teutonic hero can’t save Liquid Sky. It’s so vacant, so hopelessly fashionable, that I wouldn’t be surprised if Lady Gaga soon starred in a remake.