Hookin’ up with Scissor Sisters

Audiophile

by David Stout  Associate Editor  editor2@goqnotes.com
Published: July 24, 2010 in Audiophile

More times than I care to remember I’ve read back over an article or review I’ve just written and found it to be…off. Not what I’d intended and certainly not what I’d hoped for. It usually happens with pieces I’ve had to labor over — which only makes it more frustrating, of course. Most times, by tweaking this or that I can polish the piece to an acceptable degree. Sometimes, though, there’s no saving the work and it’s back to the drawing board. I hate those times.

Having endured this experience in my own small way, I can only imagine what the four members of Scissor Sisters felt when, after 18 months of work, they began to get the gnawing feeling that they needed to scrap their just-completed third album and re-start the entire writing and recording process from scratch. The band’s fears were confirmed by superstar pal Elton John after he was given a sneak preview. For whatever reason, the project simply hadn’t come together.

Scissor Sisters’ self-titled debut, which perfectly recreated the flamboyant pop and rock of the ‘70s, was the best surprise of 2004. Audiences across Europe and particularly the U.K. went wild for the album and the camptastic band — ex-stripper frontman Jake Shears, multi-instrumentalist Babydaddy, guitarist Del Marquis (all of them openly gay) and straight backing vocalist Ana Matronic. Unlike so many acts that take multiple albums to get their musical footing or build a sustained following, the Sisters struck gold dust on their first try.

In 2006, the band’s sophomore album, “Ta-Dah,” was released under the weight of gargantuan expectations. While most critics felt it fell short of the tossed-off brilliance of its predecessor, it was another international hit fueled by lead single “I Don’t Feel Like Dancing.” The song topped charts around the world — not including America, where the band has never broken into the mainstream but enjoys a devoted cult following.

Following an extensive tour and much-needed furlough, everyone regrouped for those ill-fated third-album sessions.

When the wheels came off, the members went their separate ways. Shears was lost on a dancefloor in Berlin when an intriguing question bacame lodged in his mind: What would music sound like today if AIDS had never decimated the disco generation. The answer was the sound the band had been grasping for, he felt; his bandmates agreed. They returned to the studio, joined this time by production wizard Stuart Price (Madonna’s “Confessions On A Dancefloor”), and set to work on their new thematic vision.

According to the dozen tracks that comprise “Night Work” (out now on Polydor), the proper response to Shear’s initial query is a thumping, four-on-the-floor orgy of Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Bronski Beat and Pet Shop Boys that rattles the speakers of the sleazy bath house in your mind. It’s also the hands-down hands-in-the-air party record of 2010.

Key cuts include the ho’s anthem title song, rousing call-to-arms single “Fire With Fire,” down-and-dirty rocker “Harder You Get,” and epic album closer “Invisible Light,” which features a Vincent Price on “Thriller”-style spoken word breakdown from Sir Ian McKellan. The track builds and builds before finally exploding in a torrent of thrusting beats that hit you like tsunami waves. It’s the musical equivalent of an amyl-fueled orgasm that pushes you over the edge of ecstacy but spares you the headache.

After a crushing false start, Scissor Sisters have rebounded by producing the soundtrack of the hook-up generation. Oh, how I love a happy ending. Towel, please. : :

info: audiophile@goqnotes.com