It’s remarkable how the passing of time can scrub the tarnished veneer of happily bygone pop styles, making musts-to-avoid hip all over again. It may suck when everyone and their producer is taking the same crappy cues, but it’s another story when that same crappy music is employed as a touchstone when no one else wants to touch it. Ask New York’s Scissor Sisters about that particular phenomenon, because these counselors of camp are not afraid to whip out their kitsch-blades and cut you. Led by singer Jake Shears (Jason Sellards) and keyboardist/bassist Babydaddy (Scot Hoffman), the group gathered up the last 30 years of British chart-pop, filters it through that dark time during the late ’70s and early ’80s when disco and supergroup soft rock were still looking for the exit sign, and tops it with a dollop of ultra-modern electroclash love. While not exactly a sound the alternative crowd was impatiently anticipating, the Sisters hit big with the Brits and eventually made quite an impression in the American underground. And for good reason. At its best, the self-titled debut is a joyful commemoration of gay club culture, a sonic circus of sorts with drag queens in place of clowns, chronic instead of cotton candy and racing keyboard follies as the soundtrack of choice. Sex and drugs and Elton John make for a great party, if not a perfect one. A few tracks would make Ambrosia blush (or Leo Sayer smile), and time-honored wannabe chicanery can’t quite justify the band’s calculated Village-People-meets-Spice-Girls image, but the project’s overall charm wins in the end. So much to hate, and yet impossible not to smile.
Scissor Sisters starts with “Laura” (Jamiroquai in disguise) and the UK hit single “Take Your Mama” (simply the best song Sir Elton never wrote), but it’s the revisionist cover of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” that truly tweaks the auricles. Originally the B-side to “Electrobix” (the Sisters’ more undemanding first single), this crime against nature for any longhaired, disco-hating rock fascist swipes its intro from Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen (Just Like a White-Winged Dove)” and its percolating rhythm from ’80s synth-bop like Bronski Beat; Shears’ Gibb-worthy falsetto is the clincher. The remake’s contemptuous audacity is amusing, but the ease in which it uses a cornerstone of arena-rock to break down The Wall and re-erect it as a dance shack is simply amazing. Other worthwhile capers include the electro-funk cheese of “Tits on the Radio,” the clear-cut electroclash of “Filthy/ Gorgeous” and the Kenny-Loggins-does-glam of “Music Is the Victim.” Skip “Lovers in the Backseat” (Bill Nelson?), “Better Luck” (Supertramp?!) and “It Can’t Come Quickly Enough” (Alphaville?!!) and move straight to the cloudy cityscape and majestic chorus of “Return to Oz,” the Badly Drawn Boyish ballad that ends this often irresistible yet occasionally irritating debut.
The Remixed record mines four songs into nine tracks.