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The cover of the new Scissor Sisters album Night Work features an eye-catching clenched male butt clad in tights. It screams gay.

“It was something that [lead singer] Jake [Shears] was really excited about,” says the band’s multi-instrumentalist, Scott “Babydaddy” Hoffman, over the phone while on tour in Europe.

The photo of dancer Peter Reed was captured in 1980 by groundbreaking photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, who by the end of that decade had died from AIDS.
“Jake really liked Robert’s work and the connection that it had to us and the era that he came from. That 1980s downtown New York scene which was a time of abandonment, fun and creativity, but ultimately a time that was stopped by a disease that devastated all of that,” says Hoffman. “The album is a continuation of that night life and creativity. It’s also about us connecting to that past.”

The Scissor Sisters came to life at the turn of the millennium. In 2001, Hoffman and Shears joined forces with singer Ana Matronic and guitarist Del Marquis under the name that refers to a lesbian sexual position. Their flamboyantly blissful sound has earned labels ranging from glam pop to disco and electroclash.

Beginning with late-night romps in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighbourhood, their springboard to stardom came when their disco cover of Pink Floyd’s classic “Comfortably Numb” was embraced by DJs in the UK. A few booty shakes later, their self-titled debut was crowned top album in Britain. Widespread success in Europe and Canada followed but has so far eluded them at home.

“We don’t necessarily make music that sounds good on American radio,” admits Hoffman. “We make music that sounds good to us and is a little bit old-fashioned at times. But if you look at the American Top 40 you’re not going to see many bands. You’ll see solo artists and half-naked women. And that’s just not us.”

The music on Night Work is high-octane escapism that resonates with an epic ’80s sense of uninhibited possibility: one part modern take on all-night sweaty club beats, and one part synthy soundtrack to an against-the-odds ’80s movie (think Flashdance) that just gets your feet moving.

Energy in this album is ripe. To find it, front man Shears flew to Berlin to seek inspiration in the city’s famously electrifying nightlife. “I rediscovered techno music. I partied a lot and met DJs,” he told Germany’s The Local. He also visited Berlin’s legendary club Berghain, which some consider the current world capital of techno and where the debauchery includes the occasional public sex romp.

Then, on the advice of past collaborator Elton John, the band, for the first time ever, brought in a producer. The man for the job was British dance-floor guru Stuart Price (Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Depeche Mode).     
“It took a little bit of getting used to,” admits Hoffman, “but we had known him for so long that we were really comfortable. Technically, he made it sound better, and as a sort of psychologist he figured out how to get the best out of us.”

The result is the band’s twelve-track, third album that Hoffman insists has universal appeal. “We make dance music. It may be influenced by certain genres or specific things, but in the end it’s music that anyone can get into whether you know the world we come from or not.”