“It’s a walk-off.”
Can it Zane, I can dominate a walk-off with my mascara-bleeding eyes closed shut and a nasty case of clubfoot. All I need are my tunes, and thank Liberace’s ghost that the Scissor Sisters are here to stay. Just spin that record with “Tits on the Radio” and I’ll be repeating and elaborating down any runway, stretching my spandex pants past the laws of physics, all with the help of the most deliciously bitchy and joyful music I’ve heard since glam rock went out of style. Through the course of this gender-bendilicious debut, every one of the Scissor Sisters proves him/her/itself to be — to quote one of the album’s many crunchy lyrics — “a classy honey kissy huggy lovey dovey ghetto princess.”
Of course, the first thing that comes to mind when first encountering the Sisters — a six-piece with hokey stage names like Paddy Boom and Jake Shears — are the unfortunate cynical labels of gimmick, cheeseballs, or untalented disco thieves (which, incidentally, would be a fucking awesome band name). Somehow, the Scissor Sisters, originally dubbing themselves Dead Lesbian and the Fibrillating Scissor Sisters but changing their name so as not to alienate every human being on Earth, manage to be all these things while still attaining greatness. Song after song apes Elton John, David Bowie, Mott the Hoople, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and Midnight Vultures-era Beck, all the while playing sex for laughs and oozing a gooey-sweaty swagger full of bedroom confidence, and the Sisters pull it off with intelligence and honesty. Plus, they make the execution look amazingly easy, especially considering that this stuff was recorded at bassist Babydaddy’s apartment.
So just what gives the Scissor Sisters that je ne sais quoi? Their unbridled joy and energy. They seem to know they’re resurrecting semi-dead genres of Hunky Doryism and disco, but they’re also aware of how returning to lost arts can inspire a truly fresh sound. Badydaddy and Co. take the idea and run with it. From the hard-hitting bass of “Laura” to the classic-rock Pink Floyd mourning of “Return to Oz,” the sisters go for broke with loud and proud themes and incredibly groovy, densely textured production. Every song bulges with simple catchiness and excellence, but standouts include the rollicking piano-rock of “Take Your Mama,” the counter-culture disco revelry of “Tits on the Radio,” and a hilarious cover of “Comfortably Numb,” which features a Bee Gees “Stayin’ Alive” rendition of “Ah, ah, ah!/ Have become/ comfortably numb.”
The twist to the music, though, lays in its heart and mind. “Take Your Mama” paints the poignant yet celebratory picture of a man getting his mother wasted before coming out of the closet to her, while the Beck-ish “Lovers in the Backseat” has singer Shears idly playing with his radio in the driver’s seat and trying not to glance at the steamy sex occurring right behind him. “Return to Oz,” the album’s best song, tells the heart-wrenching tale of a gay community destroyed by crystal meth. Luckily, “Music Is the Victim,” the only semi-weak track among this marvelous work, is brainless piano-rock blues that still remains highly enjoyable.
I cannot find a better party soundtrack to 2004. With the drinks liberally pouring as the energy peaks with “Filthy/Gorgeous” and the body finally detoxing with the bad trip of “Oz,” the Scissor Sisters breathe buoyant life into the dead art of coking up in drag. And, as is the case with fellow music-history rapists the Darkness, the public is magnetically drawn to the timelessness of once-prevalent genres. The Sisters are destined for success of at least the “Flavor of the Year” variety, and their future will lie in how they elaborate on their themes. In the meantime, this debut does enough to qualify as one of the year’s best just by keeping my ass shaking. Amen to sex, drugs and disco balls.