Oh, at first glance it’s so easy to sneer at Scissor Sisters, five achingly hip New Yorkers with the kind of names (Babydaddy, Ana Matronic) that suggests either novelty act or very cruel parentage. They don’t, after all, fit in with any of the clich_d definitions of what it is to be a ‘rock’n’roll band’. Their idea of a good time ain’t skuzzy garage rock – it’s a musical orgy involving Elton John, The Bee Gees and a limitless supply of amyl nitrate. They don’t (only) play guitars – they’re just as fond of slap bass, too-tight-pants falsettos and thudding piano keys. And they don’t scowl and look all mean – on first impressions you’re more likely to write them off as turbo-camp chancers from the Planet Fannypack.
So why on earth should you believe us when we splatter hyperbole all over this debut album? Perhaps you should ask the group themselves. They know all too well how this world’s governed by narrow-minded first impressions and prejudice – that’s why they’ve written an album that goes about breaking through those very barriers. In fact, from the second ‘Laura’ kicks things off with a glam-stompin’ piano-riot, it’s clear that rather than try and ‘fit in’, this party record is all about ditching conformity to gloriously celebrate the outsider – be it the “queers on the pier” (‘Tits On The Radio’) or simply someone after emotional support and a hug (‘Mary’).
Just like Bowie or The Smiths, Scissor Sisters look at things from a new angle. Just check out ‘Filthy/Gorgeous’, which questions our way of judging people on first glance (“Ain’t no sum bitch gonna treat me like a ho/I’m a classy honey kissy huggy lovey dovey ghetto princess“). Or the way ‘Take Your Mama Out’ uses Har Mar-approved boogy-funk to turn a nervy coming out moment into a night on the tiles, as if the only sensible way of telling your mum you’re gay is to get her bladdered on Lambrini and point her in the direction of the cubicles at G.A.Y. Craziest of all, however, is the Frankie Goes To Hollywood-style makeover of Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’, which marinates the original rehab-rant in poppers and unleashes an ass-spankin’ disco groove that could give your beardy Uncle a coronary on contact. Forget the spaced-out wallowing of the original, Scissor Sisters are basking in the pleasures of getting nailed on disco biscuits.
Of course, anyone with an axe to grind and a fondness for seven-minute ukulele solos can push boundaries. The real trick is to pull it off whilst appealing to an audience that stretches wider than the outsiders you’re championing. And it’s the Scissor Sister ability to unify all sections of society under a groove – that makes this record so special.
The real killer choons stand up against pretty much anything ever written in the name of pop. ‘Tits On The Radio’, ‘Better Luck Next Time’ and ‘Laura’ are such universal-sounding party anthems they could get indie-fans, pop-heads and 70-year-old nutcases hitting the floor in tandem (which, incidentally, is what happens at their hometown gigs). But never is the message diluted. The masterpiece that is ‘Tits On The Radio’ is a passionate rant against The Man’s attempts to stamp out freedom of expression. The target was (ex-NYC Mayor) Rudolph Giuliani’s ridiculous outlawing of dancefloors but lines like “Now they got jobs at a local fast food chain/Flippin’ tricks for the burger since Lady M jacked their fame” depict the misery of any extinguished sub-culture. Elsewhere, the Elton-esque piano ballad of ‘Mary’ targets your tear-ducts, whereas ‘Return To Oz’ is a glorious comedown finale on an album of non-stop party anthems – a dark, muddled melodrama that hints at a bright future as long as we keep looking forward and never back. That the lush and sparkly sound of this debut was recorded in Babydaddy’s Brookyln apartment, quite possibly for 28p and a box of twiglets less than a White Stripes LP, makes it all the more astonishing.
So there you have it – you should love Scissor Sisters for the falsettos, the silly names and because they simply don’t want to fit in with any clich_d definition of what it is to be a ‘rock’n’roll band’. Rather, by celebrating what it is to be a freak in 2004 they’ve made a debut that’s unique yet uniting, deep yet designed for the dance-floor. Which kind of makes them the ultimate rock’n’roll band – it’s just that they look at things from a different perspective. Now it’s your turn.
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