Every year needs its guilty pleasure act. Last year it was Junior Senior, whose D-D-D-Don’t Stop The Beat album was an addictive postmodern album designed for the dance floor. Once you heard Move Your Feet, it was almost impossible to not spend the rest of the day humming it in your head.
This year, we are graced with Scissor Sisters, an NYC band who are already making waves with their humourous cover of the Pink Floyd classic Comfortably Numb. Scissor Sisters seem to have stood at a mixing booth that contains each factor that made Junior Senior a success and then pushed each of these levels high into the red. Their debut album, named Scissor Sisters simply enough, is a far more accomplished effort in every field; more musically revisionist, more camp (the singer’s even apparently called Ana Matronic), more throwaway and certainly more groovy than their Danish predecessors. On their earlier, smaller releases, Scissor Sisters adopted an inspired fusion of early eighties Prince with Jacko’s Thriller album, but sadly this electro-stomping has been abandoned in favour of a genre checklist of nineteen seventies musical history.
It’s never difficult to spoon out a number of musical references when listening to an album whose spotlight is so clearly pointing towards the past, and the album’s opener Laura sets the tone suitably enough, combining piano rock with guitar solo indulgence. Take Your Mama Out, along with Mary, seems to have been both written and performed by an Elton John impersonator. Comfortably Numb sounds like it would had The Bee Gees and not Floyd written it, and is arguably the album’s weakest track despite also being the band’s breakthrough hit. Lovers In The Backseat sounds like Bowie in his Low period spliced with a Hall & Oates chorus. It seems no period of musical history is safe anymore, and that might not necessarily be a bad thing.
Everything from the decade is thrown in, from Wings production values to Rocky Horror Picture Show-style hints that come and go as they please, and sometimes the homage grates slightly simply because the novelty expires quickly into the first few tracks. However, Scissor Sisters is redeemed by Tits On The Radio, which sounds caught between the late-seventies and early-eighties when respected musicians were first experimenting with synthesizers. Lovers In The Backseat immediately conjures up Olivia Newton John’s Physical; Giorgio Moroder could turn up at any moment.
The album loses its catchiness towards the end, and it outstays its welcome in your stereo by at least ten minutes, but whether you like it or not, it’s going to be very hard to go through 2004 without numerous references to Scissor Sisters by the ‘hip’ crowd, and maybe they’re right for a change.