Scissor Sisters



    Following the success of Scissor Sisters’ 2004 self-titled debut (an idiosyncratic love letter to the free-wheelin’ days of disco and glam rock that sold 3.3 million copies worldwide, including more than 2.5 million in the United Kingdom), it was unclear if there was more depth to the band’s campy theatrics or if it was merely a novelty that came about at the right time. Ta-Dah doesn’t suggest that the band is a one-hit wonder, but it hesitates to stray too far from the disco beats and falsetto cheekiness that was at the debut’s foundation. The occasional deviations from the formula lack assuredness but not promise, and that’s more than reason enough not to write off Scissor Sisters as one-dimensional.


    The band members can still write catchy dance songs, and they waste no time unveiling the album’s best song, opener “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’.” Co-written by Elton John (who also plays the song’s buoyant piano parts), the song pulsates with a gentle bass drive, laser sound effects (used more sparingly here than on the debut), hand claps and lead singer Jake Shears’s Bee Gees-on-helium falsetto. While the music is playful and bouncy, Shears’s lyrics hint that he and the band may be tempted to move beyond knowing nostalgic disco camp.


    The slickness of the production, compressed beyond belief, suits the band’s theatrical image, dressed up in an extravagant costume to mask the seamier sides of its lifestyle and neuroses. Despite the almost across-the-board upbeat nature of the music, the lyrics have a more angst-ridden style than the leave-your-cares-on-the-dance-floor ‘tude of the previous album. “It’s a bitch convincing people to like you,” Shears sings over the Sesame Street-like jaunt of “I Can’t Decide,” a jokey hoe-down jam about whether to commit a murder. “If I stop now, call me a quitter.”


    What remains is a band conflicted about how to stretch and how far to stray from a winning formula, between living up to expectations and confounding them. For every successful deviation — the Supertrampy guitar-chord progression in the beginning of “Kiss You Off” or the “Funkytown”-in-double-time funk satire “Paul McCartney” — there’s a misfire, as in the Duran Duran/smooth adult contempo-rock that brings down “The Other Side.” The result is a solid second album that finds a band contemplating whether to use its considerable songwriting gifts for the comforts of pop stardom or something less predictable.


    Ta-Dah becomes a crossroads, a necessary milestone to traverse as the band evolves out of the conventions of the dance floor and the influence of its idols. By infusing the confrontational weirdness of its stage outfits and behavior into its music, Scissor Sisters can still achieve something truly remarkable.



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