cissor Sisters, like all good alchemists, know that all it takes is inspiration and a working knowledge of molecular structure to transmute even the basest materials into something of value. While their medieval counterparts worked in lead and pig iron, the Sisters delve into the discarded back catalog of passé rock and pop moves, unafraid to draw from genres as verboten as rock/disco crossover, MOR balladry and showtune-driven AM radio jams. The end result typically trumps the dubious source material—as on dancefloor breakthrough "Comfortably Numb" (Pink Floyd via the Bee Gees) and radio breakthrough "Take Your Mama" (post-disco post-glam hoedown). Exciting and novel as this approach seemed at the time (and really still should), it lends itself to an obvious question: how long can one splice and fuse pop's DNA until the strands begin to fall apart?
The answer would seem to be about an album and a half. Ta-Dah doesn't fail completely—actually I rather suspect it reflects the ambition of its' makers—straightforward fun, catchy pop with all the trimmings, couched in impossibly slick studio sheen and with a whiff of naughtiness, mostly present in Shear's outre lyrics ("fuck and kiss you both at the same time," etc.). Sure, all the trappings and irony-free reveling of the debut present and accounted for, but what's missing are the tunes and any sense of edge—any sense that such shameless debauchery is somehow dangerous—both of which Scissor Sisters had in spades. By chopping and screwing tropes from two decades of disposable pop, the Scissor Sisters somehow made a record that was utterly essential. This time around, it's just so much pop macrame. Ta-Dah’s songs each simply tempt a game of musical connect-the-dots—and little more. "She's My Man" (incidentally the best song on the album)—Supertramp meets the Sweet. "Paul McCartney" —Off the Wall meets Victory. "Land of a Thousand Words"—Elton John meets... Elton John.
First single "I Don't Feel Like Dancing," though I found it enormously disappointing at first, has finally imbedded its delirious tenterhooks in my brain. But it still spells danger—it sounds exactly like a Scissor Sisters song, and I used to not know what that would imply. And truthfully, all its component parts, from Zapp lasers to the Italo Disco synth swoop to that horrid Linn drum roll to the countrified backbeat sound like samples, not merely clever imitations. Too many slightly annoying music hall excursions mar the first half of Ta -Dah, while the second half is host to limp ballads with guitar solos and unnecessary studio tomfoolery (a la the banjo and sitar on "Might Tell You Tonight").
Ana Matronic helps bring some joy to "Kiss You Off," the album's stronkingest disco number and the high continues with "Ooh," a synth-funk stepper Rick James would've been proud of, but the hot streak stops at two. "Everybody Wants the Same Thing," their attempt at a showstopping closer, just sounds like an excessive misfiring of the Beatles / Queen ordnance. As Jake himself asks at one point, "are you lost or treading water?"
While there's nothing unforgivably bad on display during Ta-Dah, there's little that warrants the kind of abiding fandom invited—nay, required—by 2004's debut. Whether the songs are merely half-developed or the sugar-sheen production simply washes them of any potential grit, it seems apparent that the dreaded second album curse hath struck again. Hopefully the band will rediscover and re-energize the next time out, and emerge as the Queen(s) of Nuevo Pop we all know them to be. In the meantime, don't pack up that feather boa just yet...