Playing God
Scissor Sisters: Scissor Sisters

enough ink has been spilled on the Scissor Sisters’ collective cravats, feather boas and fedoras that I don’t need to rehash their story here. In short, their self-titled debut—filled with ‘70s pop-rock hooks, trashcan glam poses and gay club beats—landed on many critics’ lists, and dented pop culture on the strength of “Take Your Mama,” a surgical strike on conservative values veiled under Elton John’s harmlessly toothy grin. But “Scissor Sisters” sounds more like three EPs from like-minded bands than one cohesive album. Their genre-crossing style produces confusing results under the oldest and most reliable measure: “Customers who bought music by Scissor Sisters also bought music by these artists: Goldfrapp, Kylie Minogue, George Michael, Franz Ferdinand, Bucci Bag.”

That screams identity crisis, or at least fan base identity crisis. It is part of the band’s appeal, but also leaves them with an album full of detours, dead-ends and mixed messages. Fortunately, the band has a weighty load of B-sides and unreleased tracks to employ while honing Scissor Sisters into the killer debut it almost was.

01. “Laura” (No change)
“Laura” stays where it is because it’s such an appropriate opener. It builds so nicely to its brilliant “this is the last time I ever do your hair” pronouncement, its muttered backing chants and its cockamamie guitar solos.

02. “Take Your Mama” (No change)
Again, no change here. The song is the band’s entry into popular conscious (i.e., the “they’re sooo gay!” line of jokes from “Best Week Ever”). It also includes some of the hookiest hooks and insidious lyrics. Stays.

03. “Better Luck” (Album track 9 on the original album; replaces “Comfortably Numb”)
The album makes the all-to-common mistake of frontloading the affair with four singles with no regard for flow. “Laura” and “Take Your Mama” play well off each other, but “Comfortably Numb”’s jarring mood shift and “Mary’s” heavy-handed melodrama stall the original album and leave the listener confused as they prepare to enter the electro-trash middle third. “Better Luck” is a much better choice, a pure-pop classic that dovetails perfectly with “Mama.”

04. “Lovers in the Backseat” (Album track; displaces “Mary”)
We’ll save “Mary” for later and move the album’s middle section up. “Lovers” is the ideal transition from glam-pop to electroclash by way of a David Bowie vocal treatment. The slinky, voyeuristic “Lovers” also vents some of the adrenaline that built up through the first three songs.

05. “Tits on the Radio” (Album track; displaces “Lovers in the Backseat”)
I had reservations about keeping “Tits” at all, but since I’ve decided to dump Ana Matronic’s other writing credit, “Filthy/Gorgeous,” “Tits” needs to stay to keep the band from sounding too genteel and to ensure that “Electrobix” makes sense at all. With Ana’s icy vocals over Babbydaddy’s killer disco bass line, it also provides some much-needed continuity between the relatively warm and emphatic “Lovers” and the cold and alienating “Electrobix.”

06. “Electrobix (Radio Edit)” (2002 single; displaces “Tits on the Radio”)
Perhaps the most egregious absence from the original album, “Electrobix” is an early single and fan favorite. I’ve decided to leave out “Monkey Baby,” “Bicycling With the Devil” and “Backwoods Part II,” demos and B-sides that all showcase the band’s bizarre erotica, because “Electrobix” is more effective than any of those songs. Possibly too gay for album-buying ears, it’s sort of a bizarre peer-pressure-induced homophobia workout jam.

07. “Get It Get It” (UK Bonus Track; replaces “Filthy/Gorgeous”)
“Get It Get It” is a great UK bonus track pinned on the end of album that deserves a place in the regular batting order. It’s the band’s most explicit appeal to the Pet Shop Boys and New Order demo, and a catchy break between the seriousness of “Electrobix” and “Mary.” “Filthy/Gorgeous” arguably has its place as a non-album single, but completely lacks the undercurrent of mournful sincerity that characterizes the rest of the album.

08. “Mary” (Album track 4 on the original album; replaces “Music is the Victim”)
It’s difficult to fit the morose “Mary” in with the rest of the album, but it’s also too good to abandon completely. It’s still a sudden change in pace from “Get It Get It,” but transitioning into the equally slow “It Can’t Come Quickly Enough” smoothes it out quite a bit. “Mary” replaces the lackluster “Music is the Victim,” the original album’s weakest track.

09. “It Can’t Come Quickly Enough” (Album track 10 on the original album; displaces “Better Luck”)
"It Can't Come Quickly Enough" is the Scissors’ secret weapon, a dark disco torch song. While both “Quickly” and “Numb” felt lonely and lost on opposite ends of the original, they form a tight suite at the end of this version. The three songs together find the disconnected abandon that lies opposite club culture’s come-together ideals. “Quickly”’s muffled, shuffling beat is one of the album’s many unknown pleasures.

10. “Comfortably Numb (Extended Mix)” (“Comfortably Numb” B-side; displaces “It Can’t Come Quickly Enough”)
Just a slight change, swapping the original for the longer version. Still the Scissors’ crowning achievement, it sounds even better shoulder to shoulder with “Quickly” and “Doctor.” “They’ll be no more HIIIIIIIIIGHhhhh… but you may feel a little sick.” Few artists have ever made someone else’s song their own like the Scissor Sisters do with “Numb.”

11. “Doctor (I’m Only Seeing Dark)” (Unreleased track; replaces “Return to Oz”)
“Doctor” is the context for “Comfortably Numb” that was so sorely lacking on the original album. “Numb” was left high and dry, a left-field cover that was dismissed by some as a novelty. The idea of injecting a Bee Gees vibe into Pink Floyd melodrama is endemic of what the band does best, but it’s easy to miss without a few originals that prove space-disco was not a fluke. I suppose I’ll catch hell for dropping the popular “Return to Oz,” but it is a bit ponderous. It could be substituted for the similarly-paced “Mary” in a pinch, but it’s the weaker of those two.

By: Erick Bieritz
Published on: 2005-01-18
Comments (2)

Recent Features By This Author
Pop Playground - Rockism Reorientation
Today on Stylus
October 31st, 2007
October 31st, 2007
Recently on Stylus
October 30th, 2007
October 29th, 2007
October 30th, 2007
October 29th, 2007
Recent Music Reviews
Recent Movie Reviews