Only Jake Shears could write a song like ‘Big Bushy Mustache’, a glitzy ’70s rock grind with a Josh Homme cameo in the video and a playful pro-facial hair message: “You got what you need to set your follicles free!” It’s a welcome reminder of the alpha-camp swagger Shears brought to the charts as frontman of Scissor Sisters. 14 years after releasing their enormously successful debut album, they’re still the only band named after slang for a lesbian sex position to have gone nine-times platinum in the UK.
Shears’ solo debut probably shares more sonic DNA with that first Scissors album than follow-up efforts like 2010’s deliciously hedonistic ‘Night Work’ or 2012’s contemporary pop-leaning ‘Magic Hour’. Recorded in Kentucky and New Orleans with up to nine musicians playing live, it’s a lush, glam-flecked rock record which Shears has said was “fucking expensive” to make. It also feels like his most personal and revealing work yet. The deceptively peppy country strut of ‘Sad Song Backwards’ has lyrics that hint at suicidal feelings, while ‘Everything I’ll Ever Need’ is a bruised ballad that recalls The Carpenters.
Still, Shears has called this a “post-break-up” album (he and his longtime partner split in 2015), which makes sense because the majority of its songs are about bouncing back rather than moping around. Bowie-ish opener ‘Good Friends’ celebrates partying away the pain, ‘Clothes Off’ is a delirious disco tune about going on a bender and closing track ‘Mississippi Delta (I’m Your Man)’ almost feels like Shears’ personal self-empowerment anthem. The album’s fundamentally upbeat approach is summed up best by the lusty funk-rock of ‘S.O.B.’, which stands not for “son of a bitch”, but “sex on the brain”. This is definitely that kind of album.
It’s difficult to predict how ‘Jake Shears’ will fare on the charts because, well, it doesn’t sound like anything else around at the moment. Then again, neither did Scissor Sisters before they went nine-times platinum and influenced everyone from Take That to Kylie Minogue. Whatever happens next, Shears has certainly delivered one of the year’s most welcome and infectious comeback albums.