I have a hard time when writers use math to describe music.
It usually goes something like this: New Hip Band sounds like a genetic hybrid of The Flaming Lips, Wire and Lee Hazelwood who while on a massive coke bender employ the high priest Sun-Ra to channel the spirit of Nina Simone.
Oh yeah, and they were produced by the illegitimate love child of Tom Waits and Alan Moulder too.
In the end, these sometimes well-meaning, sometimes self-indulgent experiments in bioengineering are often as inscrutable as one of Robert Christgau’s aphorisms.
However, despite my misgivings about the technique, The Scissor Sisters seem like a band best described through comparison.
Like fellow New Yorkers Blondie they have digested huge portions of pop’s past and draw from a wide variety of sounds in their quest to craft a great pop song.
And, also like Blondie, The Sisters manage to reimagine and synthesize the voices of the past in a way that leaves their own distinct mark. This is no retro band.
With more concern for melody and rhythm than partisan politics, they use modern technology and an open mind to nimbly skip between the opposing camps of black 70s Disco and white 70s AM Radio. But in their songwriting methods, The Sisters embrace the now mythic open arms party spirit of the early dance movement.
Their fabulous electronic update of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” is what originally drew attention their way when it was released as a b-side at the end of last year, but it may be their original tunes that end up making the permanent impression.
The debut album’s lead single “Take Your Mama Out” is a guitar-driven sing along that recalls the flamboyant heyday of Elton John as it charts a champagne fueled evening out on the town with the materfamilias. Bouncy, carefree and instantly rewarding, “Take Your Mama Out” is an irresistible pop confection. Unfortunately, it has the potential to meet the same star-crossed fate as Junior Senior’s “Move Your Feet” which failed to breakthrough last year, a square peg to the circular hole of American radio.
“Filthy/Gorgeous” is a fine bit of bass heavy disco, “Tits on the Radio” is my official nominee for chorus of the year and “Laura” tosses in a dash of cabaret. But it’s the solemn ballads “It Can’t Come Quickly Enough” and “Mary” that shine the brightest. Willing and able to take the emotion all the way to 11, Is He Straight or Is He Gay lead singer Jake Shears proves once again that pop music is at its best when it lets nothing—not genre lines, not popular trends, not rules—stand in the way of a good song.
Reviewed by: Ben Welsh
Reviewed on: 2004-07-30