Flash Glance: Scissor Sisters find a more aggressive sound on Night Work.

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It doesn’t take much contemplation to realize Elton John has been a huge influence on the Scissor Sisters—he even played piano on “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’,” the standout track on the band’s 2006 sophomore album, Ta-Dah. So it’s understandable that when the Sisters finished recording their third album, guitarist Babydaddy shared the songs with Sir Elton himself. John wasn’t impressed. In response, group leader Jake Shears borrowed a move not from John but from David Bowie: He sought inspiration by immersing himself in the decadent culture of Berlin. That decision seems to have rescued Night Work from its troubled production—and scrubbed it of every trace of John’s influence except the piano-centric inspirational “Fire With Fire.” If the glowing, cheerful, inviting nature of the Scissor Sisters’ self-titled debut and Ta-Dah was a warm, kitschy Thomas Kinkade painting, then Night Work, with its get-used-to-it gay imagery, is a Tom of Finland sketchbook. And if Wal-Mart had problems with the relatively mild debut, it probably won’t even get past Night Work’s cover, which features Robert Mapplethorpe’s south-end view of a northbound male ballet dancer. The more aggressive approach is evident in both the pounding, dance-ready beats, as on the self-titled opener, and in the lyrics, as on “Whole New Way,” in which Shears sings, “Well, I think I need a rubber tonight” and “I’ve got your tail between my legs.” “Any Which Way” starts with a vintage disco beat that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Larry Levan set at the legendary Paradise Garage—that is, until Shears declares, “I want you to funk me/Your battleship has sunk me/You dip me and you dunk me/Set my body free.” The lone female Sister, Ana Matronic, contributes a silly monologue about L’Eggs’ ovoid packaging and a “man that smells like cocoa butter and cash” that’s more memorable than her anemic showcase song, “Skin This Cat.” The group saves the best for last with the sprawling, six-minute “Invisible Light.” The band has invoked Pink Floyd before, with its first-album cover of “Comfortably Numb.” On “Invisible Light,” Shears again channels Roger Waters’ detached delivery, singing, “Just open up your joy/And let the sailors climb the walls.” The song’s highlight, though, is the stately Ian McKellen’s melodramatic monologue—it’s chock full of “sailors’ lust and swagger,” “painted whores,” “sexual gladiators,” and “fiercely old party children.” There’s no word yet on how Elton John feels about Shears’ having taken another aging queen as his muse.