Fiendishly stylish and campier than marshmallows on a stick, Scissor Sisters have sashayed their way toward infamy over the past few months. Making the rounds on the European festival circuit, the New York band strutted through elaborate stage shows marked by disco-driven Pink Floyd covers and the preening of boa-bedecked frontman Jake Shears (who wound up naked on a Scottish stage when gravity tugged his toga down). Praise from the British music press helped push the group's self-titled debut to No. 1 on the U.K. album chart, which has never been unwise to the ways of novelty.
There's no separating Scissor Sisters from their live spectacle, but the band's rise owes just as much to an album that's better than it even needs to be. Now out in the United States, "Scissor Sisters" traffics in the spangly sounds of the '70s, that era of glam-rock sulk and opulent piano ballads. Shears couldn't sound more like Elton John, but his goofy falsetto and throaty bellows lend his would-be karaoke act surprising weight. In "Take Your Mama" Shears strikes back at a fleeing fiancee by taking her mother out for a night of champagne and dancing that's both celebratory and sad. In "Mary," he sings a hold-on ballad to a devastated girlfriend over billowing piano rolls.
Lest Scissors Sisters be misconstrued as too serious, they get raunchy in "Filthy/Gorgeous," an electro-dance song about a "classy honey kissy huggy lovey dovey ghetto princess." In its cover of "Comfortably Numb," the band restyles Floyd as the Bee Gees. It probably shouldn't work, but Scissor Sisters make such surprises routine.
-- Andy Battaglia