Jake Shears has always been an artist who straddles both the mainstream and the margins and ‘Last Man Dancing’ – the Scissor Sister’s second solo album since the band went on indefinite hiatus in 2012 – represents his most cohesive attempt to merge those two identities. Inspired by the liberating house parties he hosted at his New Orleans abode, the sequencing unfolds like a DJ set, with the start-of-the-night pure pop hits gradually giving way to the deeper house and tech-inspired cuts primed for the wee hours.
The first half opens in territory that wouldn’t frighten the BBC Radio 2 playlists, with the Chic-style disco of ‘Too Much Music’ and the glam strut of ‘Do The Television’, before Kylie Minogue guests on early standout, the shimmering and sensual ‘Voices’. Over an ethereal synth wash, its chokehold-chorus sees Minogue acting as a siren, whispering to Shears in his sleep, spurring him into action, allowing her to flex her most exquisite falsetto since her Scissor Sisters-penned hit ‘I Believe In You’.
That’s followed by ‘I Used to Be Love’ – which incidentally evolved out of a demo submitted for Minogue’s ‘Disco‘ album – a romp that boats a bells-on, tops-off riff reminiscent of the Shapeshifters’ ‘Lola’s Theme’. On the OTT ‘Really Big Deal’, Shears delivers tongue-in-cheek lines (‘Here I am, stand back/Give your mom a heart attack’) amid a cheesy melody over a clubby track; it comes on like a hen party strawpedoing a bottle of wine and accidentally stumbling into Berghain.
- Read more – Jake Shears: “I’m always the last one standing – this album is dedicated to those who remain”
The album’s second act, recoded predominantly with Boys Noize, sees the temperature shift and is the purest distillation of Shears’ love of dancefloor hedonism since Scissor Sisters’ 2010 cult classic ‘Night Work’. It’s a change heralded by the largely-instrumental electroclash of ‘8 Ball’, the house-diva histrionics of ‘Devil Came Down the Dancefloor’ and the Sylvester-nodding ‘Mess of Me’. The throbbing ‘Doses’ couldn’t be less likely to be playlisted on Radio 2 without it being retitled ‘Vernon Kay is a C**t’’.
Best of all is the epic ‘Radio Eyes’, where Jane Fonda delivers a monologue over a spaced-out sci-fi banger: if Scissor Sisters’ early cut ‘Take Your Mama’ saw Shears getting your mum ‘jacked up on some cheap champagne’, then ‘Radio Eyes’ is him handing your Cerrone-loving uncle a toke of angel dust in Studio 54. Closer ‘Diamonds Don’t Burn’ feels like a psych-tinged James Bond theme where Iggy Pop (sampled from a TV interview) extolls the pure mindfulness transcendence of losing yourself in the moment to music; which seems to sum up ‘Last Man Dancing’s MO.
Unlike Shears’ 2018 heart-on-sleeve solo debut, it’s pure escapism and his most effortless-sounding set since bursting out of the traps nearly 20 years ago. Amid a disco-revival where Róisín Murphy and Jessie Ware lead the pack and almost two decades since Scissor Sisters reinterpreted Pink Floyd‘s ‘Comfortably Numb’ as a poppers’n’podiums anthem, Shears is back to steal wigs at a house party you’d want the address of.
- Release date: June 2, 2023
- Record label: Mute