Crikey! 2004 seems to be turning itself rapidly into the international year of irony: first we have the somewhat inexplicable rise of The ‘hilarious’ Darkness, now we have the debut offering from the Scissor Sisters. A cadre of ex-hairdressers, performance artists and general nutcases, mixed up with a big glittery stick inside the enormous melting pot of imagination that is the New York City drag scene. “But Fischerspooner tried the same schtick and failed spectacularly!” some of you might well belch. You would be right in thinking this, but where Fischerspooner tried to politely scale the electrified fence of public indifference, Scissor Sisters take a running leap over it.
I think it’s worth inventing the word merely to describe this album as “gaytacular.” I’m sure the New York- based Scissor Sisters are sick of being defined as a “gay band” but it’s true: The Scissor Sisters, consisting of the two singers Jake Shears and Ana Matronic, guitarist Del Marquis, drummer Paddy Boom and the multitalented Babydaddy are as camp as a row of tents, and they want us to know it. Judging by this wonderful debut album, they also know how to have a hell of a lot of fun. The Scissor Sisters are an 80’s homage to The Darkness’ 80’s parody: However, instead of Whitesnake, codpieces and mullets, the Scissor Sisters obviously long for a time when Wham! were the new hope for music, Duran Duran were more than just a band and those crazy piano-key ties were the big fashion. This means pulsating disco beats, snaking guitar lines, twinkling-stars-above-us synthesizers and some of the finest, smartest pop hooks of the year. Oh yeah.
Debut single “Laura” gets things off to a fine start, with a catchy piano tinkling away in the background as the singer Jake Shears (yes – that is his name) demonstrates why he’s been touted as one of the finest voices in modern pop. It sounds like the bastard daughter of The Coral’s “Dreaming of You” and a piano player in a cowboy film when the good sheriff walks in, and delivers a righteous slice of funk-pop excellence (The song, not the sheriff, though I do know some funky sheriffs). Debut US single “Take Your Mama Out” is an acoustic-y romp about showing the gay lifestyle to one’s mother, and getting her “Jacked up on some cheap champagne.” Sounding like a demented cross between Elton John and Beck, even Bee Gees style falsetto cannot ruin the pop sensibilities that run through this song like an electrical current. You’ve probably heard the single “Comfortably Numb” already, if you attend some of the hipper discos in town. Staunch Pink Floyd fans have been outraged by this strange cover version/remix hybrid, but it is my opinion that the best remixes and cover versions take the original song and whisk it away like Dorothy in a hurricane in a completely different direction. Admit it, how many times have you seen a band in a bar somewhere doing the same old versions of “Another Brick In The Wall’ or ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit” and despaired at the complete lack of imagination involved? Mr. Shears said it himself; “We took a song about downers and heroin and turned it into a song about clubbing and pills” and for this surplus of imagination I, for one, salute this fine band.
Other album highlights include the wonderfully catty “Tits On the Radio” about censorship that includes a chorus you’ll find yourself humming days later; altogether now: “There ain’t no tits on the radio / oh no / there ain’t no tits on the radioooooooo…” “Lovers On The Backseat” is also a sordid little treat, full of odd keyboard noises and sweaty beats- just don’t play it to your mum. “It Can’t Come Quickly Enough” is where the album takes a rapid change in direction- they approach something resembling … big gasp … seriousness. It sounds exactly like the Pet Shop Boys in their flamboyant heyday, and when Shears intones sweetly “Skyscrapers rise between us…” you know exactly what he’s talking about, the poor scamp. Lastly “Return to Oz” is a very Elton John-esque ode about the incredibly disturbing film of the same name. It is a fittingly quiet end to an overwhelmingly fun album.
Scissor Sisters have created that rare thing; a collection of songs that do not feel out of place in any situation or at any time. There’s “Filthy/Gorgeous” for the big nights out and then “Mary” for the morning after; “Music Is The Victim” for when you want to get up and dance and “It Can’t Come Quickly Enough” for when you want to sit in a corner on your own and pout. A wonderful album, one of the best debuts in recent memory and if you have any sense of fun at all you’ll go out and buy it. Whole-heartedly recommended.