Fischerspooner personify old-school showbusiness; their “electroclash” glamour – an amalgam of nouveau disco, new wave, and vanilla EDM touchstones – is bombastically presented by their elongated, medium-transcending castlist of musicians, artists, photographers, and dancers, as masterminded by classically trained musician Warren Fischer and experimental artist Casey Spooner. That their band name originates in an affixing of their surnames is also evocative of a showbusiness studio giant like Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the imprint of their personality immediate and lasting across their artful empire. Their energy is often blinding, endearingly so on their previous three albums. On Sir, their fourth album and first in nine years, such blithe energy is unfortunately a muddled drawback.

Sir – as signposted by its lead singles ‘Have Fun Tonight’ and ‘Togetherness’ – celebrates communality and sexuality. Its politics are apolitical and on the front foot, flaunting its androgynous splendour and uncompromising sensuality in the unmoisturised gurning of the knuckle-dragging bigots. It’s politically personal rather than personally political, and so valuable. Menacing opener ‘Stranger Strange’ briefly introduces self-doubt which is immediately obliterated by the hopping randiness of ‘Togetherness’, ‘Butterscotch Goddamn’, and ‘Oh Rio’. It’s more or less a shagging coming-of-age story, which is cool.

It’s effective diarising #discourse, but musically it’s a mess. ‘Togetherness’ applies dub arhythms to its abstruse allusions on rough love, and it trips over itself badly, undermining its lyrical lasciviousness rather than reinforcing it, even with the vocal assist from Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek. ‘Everything Is Just Alright’ is paper thin techno, more at home in Ikea than Berghain. ‘I Need Love’ mingles acid verses with euro-trance choruses, and it’s aggressively wincing. Others are more acutely derivative, like ‘Strut’ and ‘Try Again’, which just instantly fade to grey. Fischerspooner have appropriated thirty years of dance music and not really done anything interesting with it.

It’s difficult to discern what influence Michael Stipe, with his first writing credit since 2011 and Spooner’s first boyfriend, has actually had. There’s no progression or distinction in the sequencing, they all stand-alone and their transitions into one another are jarring, and not in a good way. It’s wild how one of the best songwriters of all-time – unhyperbolically the master of seamless, coherent tracklisting – could oversee something so bloated.

It’s not without genuine bops; ‘TopBrazil’ has a rapacious groove while the pair’s harmonising is elegant, and the rousing exuberance underpinning ‘Have Fun Tonight’ validates its theoretical corniness, a fond throwback to how fucking good their debut #1 was. ‘Dark Pink’ is a short-lived, driving boogie, proffering delightful cameos from 808s, horns, and church bells, a bubbling medley that fits together wonderfully. But three hits and ten strikes, with little appreciable crossover between any of them, does not a good album make.

Sir occasionally works as an aggregate of flattering bric-a-brac and is irrepressibly sexy, but when its production’s skin-deep charm peels away there’s little to compel a return.