14 April 2010

Scissor Sisters

"Are you a Scissor Sister?" - Electrobix, Hungry Wives Passive Depressive Mix

Scissor Sisters. A peculiar mixture of glam rock, disco and electroclash, all mixed up in a rather camp, extremely risqué, but definitely, absolutely not exclusively gay manner. "The fact that some of us are gay affects our music the same amount as it does that some of the members of Blondie are straight," we discover on the DVD We Are Scissor Sisters And So Are You, a comment which thoroughly explains how early tracks like Someone To Touch, Bicycling With The Devil and Step Aside For The Man shifted attention from out-and-out outness to a more pop chart friendly UK debut album tracklist. With that attitude shift came a shift in sound, as well - from their early beginnings to their imminent launch of their third album, Scissor Sisters have changed. Altered. Maybe even evolved.

Early Days:
('Dead Lesbian And The Fibrillating Scissor Sisters')
So, it's 2001. Who wouldn't want to form an electro band and name themselves after a lesbian sex position? Well, if you happen to be go-go dancer, stripper and all-out attention seeker Jason Sellards and multi-instrumentalist Scott Hoffman you'll not only do that, but you'll immediately rename yourselves Jake Shears and Babydaddy. Add one Ana Lynch, wittily re-titled Ana Matronic, and we're all set, particularly since Ms Matronic hosts her own cabaret show at a Lower East Side New York club. It's not just who you know, it's where you work: The Slipper Room was the band's first gig. History doesn't seem to record how well Dead Lesbian et al went down, but tracks from the Dead Lesbian era are undeniably weird, and far more electronic than their current output. Take Bicycling With The Devil, an almost electroclash mish-mash with truly bizarre lyrics. "I see you dancing, damn you look good. I wish I could dance like you but I ain't got no legs.' is the more sensible part of the song, rapidly giving way to 'I see you defecating, damn you look good. I wish I could take a shit too, but I ain't got no anus.' Quite how riding the bicycle of the devil into hell helps with this isn't really made clear, alas.

A Touch Of Class:
('We gotta lose the dead lesbian...')
With the addition of Derek Gruen, now guitarist Del Marquis, and Patrick Secore, destined to become drummer Paddy Boom, the name was, probably wisely, shortened to Scissor Sisters and the band were signed to independent label A Touch Of Class. Electrobix, an early single, later to be re-released on the Scissor Sisters: Remixed! album, was recorded along with a b-side. Adored and reviled in equal parts, Pink Floyd's classic expression of inner misery, Comfortably Numb, was re-worked with a bizarre Bee Gees disco feel, complete with the ah-ha-has from Staying Alive somehow wedged into the chorus. In fact it was all high-falsetto vocals, which were coupled with a bass-line ripped straight from Stevie Nicks' The Edge Of Seventeen to produce a version of the song completely unlike Roger and Dave's original vision, guaranteed to either delight or enrage Pink Floyd fans the world over. (David Gilmour and Nick Mason have apparently expressed a liking for the group, though Wikipedia is a little shaky on details here.)

With unsurprising irony, Electrobix attracted virtually no attention at all, while Comfortably Numb was immediately picked up by the DJs of a range of electro clubs. The song rapidly spread to the UK, where The Cock in London booked the band for its first British gig. From there, Polydor sniffed out the single and signed a contract. Laura, the groups first UK single, enjoyed a limited release in 2003, and managed to make almost no impression on the UK singles chart. Its disappointing peak of 54 garnered a little attention from New Musical Express, and the song enjoyed a surprising amount of radio play in Australia. A further song, It Can't Come Quickly Enough featured on the soundtrack of the 2003 film Party Monster, accompanying cinema-goers as they left before watching all the credits. It didn't make much impact, but at least the band were getting somewhere.

('Remix, re-use it, when you wanna suck to it...')
Scissor Sisters' breakthrough was in 2004, once again featuring the song Comfortably Numb. Reaching a more respectable number 10 in the UK and a well-deserved number 1 in the US, it was quickly followed by Take Your Mama, reaching 17, and a re-release of Laura, which managed number 12. Determined to squeeze as many singles as possible out of their first album, the self-titled Scissor Sisters, the band continued to release. Mary reached number 14, while Filthy/Gorgeous managed their highest chart position yet: number five. The album, meanwhile, reached the coveted number one spot and went on to become the best-selling album of 2004. Scissor Sisters, even without their dead lesbian, had finally achieved that elusive success.

Awards and accolades followed. The music industry is good at this kind of thing. Best international group, best international breakthrough and best international album at the 2005 Brit Awards, as well as the coveted opening-spot at which they performed Take Your Mama. Then there's the GLAAD Media Award for outstanding musical artist, opportunities to perform at Live 8, V Festival and so on. A range of collaborations with other artists also began to appear. I Believe In You with Kylie Minogue, a cover of Sufragette City with Franz Ferdinand, a bit of Jake on Andy Bell's new album or Ana Matronic joining New Order on their latest album. There's also the remixes: the delightfully-named 'sticky tits' remix of Bucci Bag's More Lemonade, their pulsing disco version of Blondie's Good Boys and even a slightly strange 70s disco remix of the Pet Shop Boys' Flamboyant.

The Present:
Scissor Sisters second full album, Ta-Dah, was released in 2006. Closer in style to the self-titled Scissor Sisters album than the early electronic work, the album nevertheless made a sudden lunge in a very different musical direction while retaining the curious pop appeal. I Don't Feel Like Dancin' and She's My Man feel like familiar territory, while Paul McCartney and Kiss You Off go for a more synthetic feel. Worth a listen, but not the chart-pleasing frenzy-producers we saw on the debut album, and while the critical acclaim rolled in, the success seems to have rolled out. I still love 'em, and so should you, despite us both being abandoned for the big'n'popular fan stakes. But look...

The Future:
(Invisible Light?)
There's high hopes that some time in the future, we'll be able to review Night Work. Altogether: scissor those fingers together and get them firmly crossed... one, two, scissorscissorscissorscissor...


Scissor Sisters (Self-titled)
Release Date: 20 July, 2004
1: Laura
2: Take Your Mama
3: Comfortably Numb
4: Mary
5: Lovers In The Backseat
6: Tits On The Radio
7: Filthy/Gorgeous
8: Music Is The Victim
9: Better Luck
10: It Can't Come Quickly Enough
11: Return To Oz

Note: The UK edition features a number of bonus tracks, following an only slightly scary message from Ana Matronic herself. The two extra tracks are The Skins and Get It Get It. Both are available on other formats.

Release Date: 23 November, 2004

1: Filthy/Gorgeous (ATOC vs. Superbuddha Remix)
2: Comfortably Numb (ATOC Dub Remix)
3: The Skins
4: Comfortably Numb (Tiga Remix)
5: Electrobix (12" Mix)
6: Filthy/Gorgeous (Extended Mix)
7: Comfortably Numb (ATOC Extended Edit)
8: Comfortably Numb (Tiga Dub)
9: Electrobix (Hungry Wives Remix)

Release Date: 18th September, 2006

A limited-edition 2 CD version is also available with bonus tracks, some of them suspiciously like early Scissor Sisters.

1. I Don't Feel Like Dancin'
2. She's My Man
3. I Can't Decide
4. Lights
5. Land of a Thousand Words
6. Intermission
7. Kiss You Off
8. Ooh
9. Paul McCartney
10. The Other Side
11. Might Tell You Tonight
12. Everybody Wants the Same Thing

Other early tracks, while never officially released, are relatively easy to find on the internet. These include Someone to Touch, Bicycling With The Devil and Monkey Baby, as well as demo versions of one or two later songs. 'Making Ladies' is a standout.

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